Crash involving Tesla vehicle on Laguna Beach

Tesla car running on autopilot crashes into parked police car

Image credit: Laguna Beach Police Department

A Tesla car using the driver assistance system Autopilot has crashed into a stationary police car in Laguna Beach, California, in what is likely to be confirmed as the third such incident so far this year.

The driver, who informed police that she was using the car’s Autopilot mode, suffered minor injuries. The police officer was not in the car at the time. According to the Associated Press, the police SUV was left with its passenger-side wheels mounted on the pavement.

Tesla Autopilot is not a true self-driving system, but a driver assistance system which provides features such as self-parking, lane centring, lane changing, adaptive cruise control and summoning the car to and from a parking spot. In the future, Tesla intends to upgrade Autopilot to a full self-driving system.

Tesla vehicles using the partially autonomous system have been involved in several accidents caused by difficulty detecting stationary objects, with two previous instances already this year. Earlier this month, a Tesla vehicle using Autopilot accelerated into stationary fire engine near Salt Late City, Utah.

The US National Transportation Safety Board announced this month an investigation into an accident involving a Tesla vehicle in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which killed two teenagers and injured a third. The board already had three active investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles. It will not be investigating the most recent collision.

The growing number of incidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot mode in the US and Europe has led to two US advocacy groups – the Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog – to call on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla for what they describe as “deceptive” marketing of its driver assistance system as “Autopilot”, arguing that it is reasonable for Tesla owners to believe that a system so named is capable of fully autonomous driving.

Tesla has stated in its instruction manual that Autopilot is not designed to avoid collisions, and may not brake or decelerate for stationary vehicles.

In a statement, Tesla said: “When using Autopilot, drivers are continuously reminded of their responsibility to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times.

“Tesla has always been clear that autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents, and before a driver can use autopilot, they must accept a dialogue box which states that ‘autopilot is designed for use on highways that have a centre divider and clear lane markings’.”

Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has responded to recent reports of collisions caused by Tesla vehicles using Autopilot by writing on Twitter that it is “super messed up” that Tesla crashes resulting in minor injuries are receiving more media attention than the tens of thousands of fatal crashes involving conventional cars in the US every year.

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