Tesla Crashes Into Fire Truck While Reportedly on Autopilot

Muriel Hammond
January 25, 2018

Federal investigators are looking into a crash in Culver City after the driver of a Tesla involved said the vehicle was on autopilot at the time, the National Transportation Safety Board tweeted Tuesday.

According to California's Culver City Fire Department, the Tesla auto had been on autopilot, and traveling at 104km per hour, when it hit the parked fire truck.

"Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver", Tesla said in a statement. But as word of another Tesla autopilot crash spread, the case of auto as designated driver became an interesting thought exercise for anyone with more than a passing interest in vehicles that drive themselves. The company has repeatedly warned drivers in its owner's manual for concentrating on the road while exploiting the semi-autonomous Autopilot system. For instance, before a driver can enable the autopilot, the driver must tell the software that he or she acknowledges rules about being prepared and engaged at all times. The system monitors whether a driver is paying attention using a small camera on the top of the steering wheel column to track head position. Other automakers, including Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and BMW, have designed identical systems that helps reduce and increase speed of the vehicle automatically to stay with the flow of traffic and also assists the driver to keep the auto in its lane on the highway.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was gathering information on the accident but it hadn't decided whether to open a formal investigation.

The company now classifies the Autopilot feature as a "driver assistance system", making it still reliant upon the human driver.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Tesla's Autopilot failed during a road test.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) says a driver was found passed out in his Tesla with a very high blood alcohol content on San Francisco's Bay Bridge on Friday. In that case, the Autopilot system, which has since been updated, apparently did not recognize the white truck trailer against the bright sky. The driver said the Tesla had been set on autopilot.

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