Tesla Autopilot could save up to 500,000 lives a year worldwide by reducing auto accidents according to Elon Musk, but being able to definitively say that Autopilot actually prevented an accident and saved a life is a topic that’s often debatable.
A recent article reported by Slate tells a story of 37-year-old Springfield, Missouri attorney Joshua Neally who left work one day during July in his Tesla Model X and was on his way back home to celebrate his daughter’s fourth birthday. However during the drive home, Neally felt something coil and stiffen in his abdomen but thought nothing of it. The pain pushed upward from his stomach until it felt like “a steel pole through my chest,” says Neally. He remembers calling his wife and telling her through gasps of pain that he was going to the emergency room. Everything after was just a blur.
Doctors in Branson later tell Neally that he had suffered a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal obstruction of a blood vessel in his lungs. They said he was lucky to have survived, but Neally will tell you he was lucky to be driving a Tesla. Using Autopilot, his Model X drove more than 20 miles on the highway until it came to an exit with a hospital nearby. Neally drove into the parking lot and was admitted immediately to the ER. By the end of the night, he had recovered enough to go home.
Did Neally’s Model X save his life? That’s a question that is hard to answer with certainty. Some argue that Neally could have pulled over and waited for an ambulance to take him to the hospital – an act Neally thinks in retrospect might have been a smarter thing to do. But humans do not always think clearly during moments of extreme stress. Computers, however, do. No one can argue that Neally’s Tesla did not contribute greatly to the fact that he is alive today to tell his story.