Should Elon Musk should be ticketed instead?
This is not the way Tesla's 'Autopilot' is supposed to function, at least according to the driver of the Model S in question. According to Reuters, a Tesla Model S driver crashed into a parked, but unoccupied police car in Laguna Beach, California, earlier this week. The Tesla's driver told police the 'Autopilot' feature was engaged at the time of the crash. The driver suffered only minor injuries but is otherwise just fine. However, there was some serious damage to the Tesla's front end and the rear side of the Ford Police Interceptor.
Tesla was quick to issue a statement regarding the accident, claiming it "has always made clear that Autopilot doesn't make the car impervious to all accidents." Remember, Autopilot is semi-autonomous so the driver still needs to pay attention and can't completely doze off. Tesla prefers for us to think of Autopilot as an advanced type of cruise control. So, what happens now? Clearly the local police will investigate, just like they would for any other car accident. The driver's insurance company will also get involved as will Tesla by way of downloading the vehicle's so-called "black box" data recorder. Only a few weeks ago was there another Tesla Autopilot-related crash, in Utah.
The Model S smashed into a fire truck stopped at a red light. It sounds like both crashes are remarkably similar in circumstance. The Utah crash data indicated the driver turned on Autopilot almost a minute and a half before the crash itself. The driver almost immediately took her hands off the wheel, grabbing the wheel again only once the crash was already happening. There's also another incident under investigation where a Tesla Model X in Autopilot mode fatally struck a highway divider. Until the results of those investigations are made public, it's hard to say what happened and why, but we have a theory:
Some drivers are treating Autopilot like it's a fully autonomous system, which it's not as Tesla continuously points out. As a result, they're simply not paying proper attention to the road and what's happening around them. Photos courtesy of Reuters.