But the fault doesn't really lie with Tesla.
Tesla crashes are a regular occurrence, and it has long been established that the cause (in most cases) is not a bad bit of software coding but rather the inability of the driver to fully understand what the automaker's semi-autonomous driving assistance systems are really capable of. Granted, Tesla deciding to call its systems by names like Autopilot and Full Self-Driving can be misleading, but you can't blame an appliance company for your house burning down when you didn't turn the stove off. But not everybody sees it that way, and now Tesla is facing legal action from police after a drunk driver crashed into police vehicles and injured officers while Autopilot was engaged.
The suit comes after an accident seven months ago in Splendora, Montgomery County, that injured five police officers. If you didn't see this incident in the news, a drunk driver was behind the wheel of a Tesla Model X with Autopilot engaged. The system failed to detect the emergency vehicles involved in a traffic stop on the Eastex Freeway, crashing into the parked vehicles. The suit claims that all the officers were badly injured, and they lay the blame not on the drunk driver, but on Tesla and the restaurant that served the driver alcohol.
According to numerous reports, the suit reads as follows: "Due to the design and manufacturing defects known to Tesla, Tesla's failure to adequately warn of those defects, and Tesla's unwillingness to admit or correct such defects, the Autopilot and Tesla's system safety features failed to detect the officers' cars or to function in any way to avoid or warn of the hazard and subsequent crash."
The suit goes on to cite the NHTSA's current investigation into Autopilot crashes and also alleges that Pappas Restaurants Inc. "overserved alcohol before the accident" and that the "driver showed obvious signs of intoxication at the time of the crash." Miraculously, the driver himself is not mentioned in the suit, despite arguably being at fault more than either Tesla or Pappa's Restaurants. The police officers are now seeking damages of over $1 million with a maximum of $20 million in damages to be claimed.
Tesla has reportedly just found a way to prevent Autopilot from causing vehicles to crash into emergency vehicles, but it's a little too late in this instance, and the subsequent negative publicity will be tough to ignore.