Tesla To Be Investigated After Police Car Crash

A US federal safety agency has announced it will investigate a crash after a Tesla Model 3 on autopilot crashed into the rear of a police car.

Last week in Connecticut, a 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”.

The driver admitted to State police that he had placed his Tesla Model 3 on autopilot so he could check on his dog in the back seat. The driver of the Tesla was charged with Reckless Driving and Reckless Endangerment.

Copyright Connecticut State Police

Official investigation

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.

Connecticut State Police said at the time that it was pleased there were no serious injuries, and 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.

Are we ready for ready for driverless transport?

And now it is reported that the US car safety agency said on Friday it will investigate a 12th Tesla crash that may be tied to the vehicle’s advanced Autopilot driver assistance system.

According to Reuters, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration special crash investigation program confirmed it will investigate the 7 December crash of a 2018 Tesla Model 3 on Interstate 95 in Norwalk, Connecticut.

The investigation is likely to examine why the autopilot failed to notice the stationary police car, which had its blue flashing lights on at the time of the crash.

Other accidents

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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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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