Skip to main content

Tesla Autopilot reportedly prevented serious injury or saved the life of a pedestrian in DC


The Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) of Tesla’s Autopilot reportedly saved the life or prevented serious injury of a pedestrian in Washington DC last week. The event was reported to Tesla by a Model S owner and the automaker confirmed the event through the vehicle logs, according to Elon Musk.

You can find the full transcript of the email below:


I wanted to let you know that I think my car probably saved the life of a pedestrian last night, 7/16 around 10:30pm when I was driving in Washington DC with my daughter. I was on New York Ave and it was night time, there was a lot of glare from the headlights of oncoming cars, and there was a siren in the distance. We were having trouble figuring out if the siren was coming from behind us or from one of the side roads when a pedestrian stepped out in front of our Model S in the dark with dark clothes and in the middle of the road (not near an intersection).

Before I could step on the brakes the beeped (collision warnings) and the picture of a red car came up on my dash. The car slammed on the breaks before I could and we stopped just inches from hitting the pedestrian. I guess that the car thought the pedestrian was another car in front of us? I am not sure if I would have been able to stop before hitting him but I am so glad the car did. I am not sure if the event is recorded in the cars sensor logs.

At a time when there are so many negative stories about Autopilot and the death that occurred a few weeks ago, I thought that it was important to let you all know about this story. The work that you are all doing is really important and is saving lives. Unfortunately, incidents like this one don’t get written about in the press and most of the time no one is ever aware of how many accidents your safety features may have prevented. Thanks and thanks for letting customers use Autopilot even though it is in beta.


The Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) is what was at work in this incident. While Autopilot’s convenience features like Autosteer and Traffic-Aware Cruise Control are offered at a premium, the safety features powered by the Autopilot, like AEB, are standard on all Tesla vehicles.

It doesn’t sound like the driver had any of the convenience features of the Autopilot activated at the time of the close call, especially on a street like New York Ave with a lot of traffic lights, it wouldn’t be recommended.

Prior to the recent events surrounding the first death of a Tesla owner while using the Autopilot, Elon Musk said that in the event of Autopilot getting bad press following an accident, he would consider releasing the stories of accidents prevented by the Autopilot with the authorisation of the Tesla owners and by confirming the events through the vehicle logs.

It was in response to an owner suggesting that Tesla would need 10 saves for every bad news in order to counter the media attention properly. Musk said during an event in Hong Kong earlier this year:

“There are a lot of interventions that occur and that we are aware of, but we haven’t really asked customers if we could share the information. It’s actually a good point. We don’t want to put any pressure “like no pressure, only if you want to share it”, but yeah maybe we could sort of ask people in a really low-pressure way.”

At the time (January 2016), he said that Autopilot had made thousands of interventions already.

It looks like this could be the first example with more to come:

The prevented accident reportedly happened on New York Ave in Washington DC, not in the state of New York.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading Electrek— experts who break news about Tesla, electric vehicles, and green energy, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow Electrek on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our YouTube channel for the latest reviews.



Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

Fred is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at Electrek.

You can send tips on Twitter (DMs open) or via email:

Through, you can check out Fred’s portfolio and get monthly green stock investment ideas.