A driver has been charged after he placed his Tesla Model 3 on autopilot so he could check on his dog in the back seat.
Unfortunately, the Model 3 whilst in its autonomous driving mode failed to avoid crashing into a stationary police car which had its blue flashing lights on, as it attended to a broken down car in the “left centre lane”.
Thankfully, there were no serious injuries as a result of the crash, despite the driver failing to give his full attention to his car whilst it was in self-driving mode.
The crash, which happened in the early hours of 7 December, was revealed in a Facebook post by Connecticut State Police.
“Both Troopers on scene were stopped behind the disabled motor vehicle with their emergency lights activated, with an additional flare pattern behind the cruisers,” said the post.
They were waiting for a tow truck for the broken down vehicle, when a 2018 Tesla Model 3 “ traveling northbound struck the rear of one cruiser and then continued north striking the disabled motor vehicle.”
“The operator of the Tesla continued to slowly travel northbound before being stopped several hundred feet ahead by the second Trooper on scene,” said the police. “The operator of the Tesla stated that he had his vehicle on ‘auto-pilot’ and explained that he was checking on his dog which was in the back seat prior to hitting the collision.”
The driver of the Tesla was charged with Reckless Driving and Reckless Endangerment.
“Fortunately, no one involved was seriously injured, but it is apparent that this incident could have been more severe,” said the state police. “Regardless of your vehicles capabilities, when operating a vehicle your full attention is required at all times to ensure safe driving.”
It said that although a number of vehicles have some automated capabilities, there are no vehicles currently for sale in the US that are fully automated or self-driving.
For the record, Tesla recommends users be prepared to take over from autopilot at all times, and that drivers do not remove their hands from the steering wheel whilst autopilot is engaged.
There have previously been other accidents whilst a Tesla has been driving on autopilot.
Indeed there are reportedly at least five fatalities worldwide involving Tesla vehicles on autopilot.
In May this year an US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into a fatal Tesla crash in March involving its autopilot found that the self-driving technology was engaged for nearly 10 seconds before the crash.
The driver had apparently removed his hands from the wheel about 8 seconds before the crash, and the roof of the Tesla Model X was sheared off and its 50-year-old driver was killed when the vehicle drove under the trailer of a semi truck that was crossing its path in March 2019.
That March incident has similarities to a May 2016 crash in which a Model S also drove under the trailer of a semi truck crossing its path. That crash found that autopilot had failed to detect the white trailer against a bright sky.
But it concluded that the driver was not paying attention to the road and exonerated Tesla.
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