5 Times Elon Musk and Tesla's Autopilot Saved Their Drivers' Bacon

With all the scare stories of autonomous cars of late, here are some much-needed examples of autopilot driver saves.
Christopher McFadden

Tesla's autopilot has received a lot of heat in the news over the last few years with an apparent torrent of "Autopilot fails". But there are also many success stories where Tesla's Autopilot saved their driver's bacon.


Love it or hate it, cars are inevitably going to become more and more autonomous as times go by. Whilst they are not perfect, just yet, the following stories just show how useful they might be as a form of car safety, if not a means of giving the driver a welcome rest.

After all, as the great philosopher, Adele Rousseau from Alien Versus Predator once said:

"It's like a condom, I don't need it, but I'd rather not need one and have one than need one and not have one".

1. Recent Tesla update saved this driver's bacon

In October of last year, Brad King from Waxham, North Carolina, was saved from serious financial loss thanks to his car's autopilot. In an interview with Teslarati, he recalled the incident.

This new update enabled the semi-autonomous Autopilot mode to provide a new "dashcam" feature. This, as it turns out, was a pretty handy feature for the driver that day.

Whilst driving down Rea Road in Charlotte, a White Honda pulled out into the middle of the road, without its lights turned on, and stopped suddenly.

This driver, as it turned out, had no insurance, no drivers license and decided to lie about what actually happened when questioned. Thankfully for Brad, his trusty Tesla's new dashcam feature had captured the entire event.

The over-the-air update also provides Teslas with a series of Atari games, a new interface for the Model S and X and a handy calendar. Of course, Brad was only really concerned about the bacon-saving dashcam feature.

2. This Tesla driver was taken to the hospital when they got in trouble

autopilot saves
Image Source: Jyri Engestrom/Flickr

Back in 2017, Joshua Neally, from Missouri, was transported safely to a hospital by his Tesla Model X. This might very well have saved his life and all thanks to the car's self-driving features.

Joshua was on his way home from his law firm's office when he unexpectantly suffered a pulmonary embolism. He allowed the autopilot to take the reins for over 32km on the highway.

The Tesla transported Joshua to an off-ramp close to the hospital after which he was able to complete the rest of the journey. 

An interesting question is whether it might have been better for Neally to pull over and wait for an ambulance instead.

But you can hardly blame him for making a quick decision once he started to feel the symptoms of the embolism. If his medical emergency had been more serious, his Tesla's autopilot would've kicked in automatically.

This would then gradually slow down the car, trigger its hazard lights and pulled the car safely over to the side of the road. Either way, Neally's Tesla had him covered.

3. This chap's autopilot saved his life when he fell asleep behind the wheel

A music producer and Tesla owner, Anton Zaslavski, had his life saved by his car when he fell asleep behind the wheel. The event happened in May last year and Anton could not have praised Tesla more for its failsafe features.

“There’s lots of “bad” news about Teslas w/ autopilot crashing,” Zedd wrote on Twitter shortly after.  “Just to show the other side too: I once fell asleep driving home late at night on the highway (w/ autopilot on) and got woken up by it beeping + turning off music to wake me up. Would have prob been dead without it.” he continued. 

Whilst Tesla's autopilot isn't specifically designed for sleepy drivers, it does constantly monitor the human driver's attentiveness. It does this through visual and audio alerts throughout the drive.

It should be noted that this kind of feature is not unique to Tesla and can be found in Volvos. Toyotas and GMs with Super Cruise.

4. Californian Police coerced this Tesla owner's car to stop when he fell asleep

In an interesting example of police officers using their initiative, CHP officers saved drivers life using an interesting tactic. They found a Tesla Model S doing 113 kph on a highway in the San Fransisco suburb of Redwood City.

After they found the driver wasn't responding to lights or sirens, they pulled up alongside the car.

The driver, Alexander Samek of Los Altos, was found to be fast asleep behind the wheel. Thinking quickly they hoped the driver had his driver-assist program activated and decided to try to slow the car down to a gradual stop.

The officers pulled in front of the Tesla and slowly began to slow down hoping the Tesla's autopilot would respond. The tactic worked. 

The driver was subsequently woken up and arrested on suspicion of being under the influence whilst driving. 

5. This driver was saved from a nasty collision with an out-of-control semi-truck

Earlier last year, one lucky Tesla driver was saved from being sideswiped by a semi-truck thanks to his car's autopilot. Jeremy Visnesky, the proud owner of a Tesla X, uploaded and shared the footage on YouTube from his car's dashcam.

The incident occurred on the I-95 South through NC when a semi-trailer swerved into his lane. Thankfully he had his Autopilot engaged and it duly took action to avoid a collision.

Whilst initially the semi slowly wandered over, the driver appeared to react and almost lost control for a moment. 

The autopilot recognized the unusual behavior of the truck and steered the Model X away from the approaching threat. Once the truck driver regained control, the Autopilot guided the Model X back into its original driving position. 

“I-95 South driving through NC and a semi decided to nod off or play with his phone or something. Had Autopilot not have bolted to the side, I’m pretty sure he would have hit me,” Visnesky later recalled.

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