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Self-Driving Tesla Drives Sick Owner To The Hospital

A Missouri man credits his Tesla with helping to save his life after the car's autopilot mode delivered him to a hospital when he had a life-threatening blood clot.

Joshua Neally, a 37-year-old lawyer, told Slate he'd left work early on a day in late July and was a few minutes into his 45-minute commute home when he felt a coiling sensation in his abdomen, then a lance of pain that felt like "a steel pole through my chest."

Neally called his wife, who told him to head to an emergency room. Fearing he might lose consciousness, Neally put his Tesla Model X on autopilot mode and told it to bring him to the nearest hospital.

It's a good thing he did -- Neally told Slate he remembers little of the subsequent drive, when his car drove him more than 20 miles to a hospital. When he arrived, doctors treated Neally for a pulmonary embolism -- a potentially fatal blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in his lungs.

Neally told Slate he believes the car helped save his life, and also says it likely prevented others from getting injured when he lost consciousness behind the wheel.

As the BBC notes, the story has resulted in some positive headlines for Tesla, the electric car manufacturer, after a high-profile traffic death and another crash involving the Model X's autopilot mode.

In May, 40-year-old Joshua Brown was killed when his Tesla Model S collided with a semitrailer on a Florida highway. In July, another driver was injured in Montana when his Model X struck a wooden divide on a two-lane road. After the latter accident, Tesla said the driver had ignored repeated warnings from the car to take back manual control, and did not have his hands on the steering wheel at the time of the collision.

In a statement after that crash, the company issued a statement saying autopilot is disabled by default, and that drivers are informed by the car that autopilot is a new technology in beta phase before they activate it. The car will sound and signal a number of alerts if it detects the driver's hands are not on the steering wheel, it said.

Tesla says its drivers have used autopilot to safely travel more than 130 million miles.

When the feature was unveiled in late 2015, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it was designed to help drivers negotiate busy highways, and not meant as a replacement for human drivers.

"The driver cannot abdicate responsibility," Musk said.

Sources: BBC (2), Slate / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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