Tesla on Autopilot hits parked police car; no, this is not a repeat from last month, this is a whole new crash
- 251 Views
Latest Autopilot-related crash in Laguna Beach results in injuries for driver
A Tesla Model S allegedly being driven on Autopilot crashed into a parked police vehicle in the city of Laguna Beach, California, earlier this week. The driver of the Tesla suffered minor injuries, and fortunately no one was in the police car at the time. Both vehicles suffered extensive damage, and photos of the crash scene posted on social media by the Laguna Beach Police Department showed that most, if not all, airbags inside the Model S had deployed. The driver told the responding officers on the scene that the Model S was in Autopilot mode at the time.
Photos from the scene indicate that the Model S delivered a glancing impact to the rear left quarter and side of the police car with its front right fender, causing damage to the sides of both vehicles.
The apparent Autopilot-involved crash adds to a string of incidents in which Teslas operated on Autopilot have crashed into the backs of emergency vehicles parked on the shoulder or stopped in a traffic lane.
Earlier this year, a Model S in California, also apparently in Autopilot mode, drove into the back of a firetruck that was parked in the left lane of a highway and was responding to another crash. The driver of that vehicle was not injured. Just two weeks ago another Tesla Model S drove into the back of a firetruck in Utah, causing serious damage to the front of the Model S. The 28-year-old driver told police that Autopilot was engaged at the time and that she had been looking at her phone.
Tesla crashes into stationary vehicles and other objects positioned in front of them, some of them resulting in fatalities, have raised fresh questions about the inherent capabilities and blind spots of the Autopilot semi-autonomous driver assist system. Autopilot uses a combination of video cameras and radar to monitor traffic around the car, but almost every month a story emerges of a Tesla rear-ending something large and otherwise obvious in its path while the driver claims that Autopilot was engaged.
Earlier this spring another suspected Autopilot glitch was linked to a fatal head-on collision of a Tesla Model X with a highway crash barrier. In that incident, the Tesla driver, who had earlier complained about Autopilot following the wrong set of painted highway lane markings, drove into a crash attenuator that divides a multilane highway split. The Model X is suspected to have followed confusing highway lane markings and had driven into the already-damaged crash attenuator at full speed, setting the vehicle on fire and damaging two other vehicles. Several other Tesla owners had reported similar Autopilot behavior in the same location, as well as similar locations, suggesting that the sensors that monitor lane markings could become confused. Tesla's response to this crash, in which it largely blamed the driver and the state of the highway attenuator, prompted a public spat with the NTSB, which criticized Tesla for releasing data on the incident to the public before the investigation was complete.
Placing aside the issue of lane markings, one recurrent theme in a growing number of Autopilot crashes is that the vehicle's forward sensors have not reacted to large solid objects, like firetrucks, directly in their path, or reacted too late to achieve complete braking.
"Traffic-Aware Cruise Control cannot detect all objects and may not brake/decelerate for stationary vehicles or objects, especially in situations when you are driving over 50 mph (80 km/h) and in situations where a vehicle you are following moves out of your driving path and a stationary vehicle or object is in front of you," a Tesla manual notes.
Reports of Autopilot-related accidents provoked a sharp response from Tesla boss Elon Musk, who took to Twitter last week to criticize reporters and news outlets for reporting Autopilot-related crashes and promised to launch a Verrit-style website named "Pravda" to rank the credibility of news outlets and individual reporters. The rolling, week-long series of Musk's Twitter skirmishes with journalists ultimately ended in an ugly manner and failed to paint a picture of stability among Tesla leadership.