In late July, Joshua Neally left his office in Springfield, Missouri early so he could get home for his daughter’s fourth birthday celebration. Less than 10 minutes later, he was in excruciating pain. He called his wife and they agreed he should try to get to an emergency room as soon as possible.
Neally put his Tesla Model X in Autopilot mode and tried to deal as best he could with the pain. 20 miles later, he was able to guide the car off the highway at an exit ramp and into a nearby hospital where he checked himself into the emergency room.
He was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism — a potentially lethal condition. A few hours later, he was well enough to drive himself home. Even though Neally admits it might have been smarter to pull over and call 911 for an ambulance, but he is convinced his Tesla saved his life.
The story is reported by Slate. It hadasked Tesla for some proof of Elon Musk’s claim that Autopilot saves lives. Neally gave Tesla permission to share his story. Ordinarily, it randomizes the data it collects from its cars as they operate in Autopilot mode in order to protect the privacy of its customers. Elon Musk says that Autopilot could save as many as 500,000 highway deaths worldwide every year. But proving the system prevented a fatality it like trying to prove a negative. It’s very hard to do.
Neally’s story is unusual, but there is little question that autonomous driving technology is coming and that Tesla is leading the charge into the self-driving future. Elon Musk has a team of his best engineers working on improving the system. Even though the company has not said so officially, it is generally assumed that the new Tesla Model 3 will feature fully autonomous capability when it goes on sale in late 2017 or early 2018.
Maybe Musk never imagined that Autopilot would drive people to the hospital, but Joshua Neally is certainly glad it did.