Tesla Model S Involved in Autopilot Malfunction Accident

EnlargeCalifornia Highway Patrol

Law enforcement officers had two incidents involving Tesla vehicles on autopilot, including a crash into a Culver City fire truck on the freeway in Los Angeles. Despite the auto hitting the engine - which was attending a motorcycle crash - at 65mph, Culver City Firefighters amazingly reported that all involved escaped injury.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the driver explained that his Tesla electric vehicle "had been set on autopilot", obviating the need for him to be in control of the vehicle or, well, sober. The Culver City Firefighters Twitter account tweeted out photos of the crash, stating "Amazingly there were no injuries".

In its owner's manual, Tesla repeatedly warns drivers to pay attention to the road while using the semi-autonomous Autopilot system. "System safeguards, that should have prevented the Tesla's driver from using the car's automation system on certain roadways, were lacking and the combined effects of human error and the lack of sufficient system safeguards resulted in a fatal collision that should not have happened", said Sumwalt. There's also "ultrasonic" sensors all around the vehicle to detect hard and soft objects. Specifically, the Autopilot feature no longer allows drivers to simply turn the feature on and busy themselves with other activities. The board only investigates a small number of crashes each year, but it seems the autopilot element of the Model S sedan has grabbed the interest of the safety organization.




Tesla's autopilot system, however, is still progressing and requires drivers to be prepared to grab the wheel and react to circumstances at all times.

The driver had a blood alcohol content almost double the legal limit and a tenuous relationship with consciousness when his vehicle slammed into the back of a parked firetruck on San Francisco's Bay Bridge. It's also possible the Tesla wasn't actually in autopilot mode, even though the driver thought it was. It is worth noting, though, that a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that Tesla's Autopilot feature ultimately makes driving safer for all parties on the road.

Consumer Reports has suggested that Tesla change the name for autopilot to something less misleading.

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