What just happened? There’s been yet another crash involving a Tesla vehicle that was in Autopilot mode. This time, a Model S driver hit a parked police SUV in Laguna Beach, California. While the driver of the vehicle sustained minor injuries, the cruiser was unoccupied at the time of the accident.
Sgt Jim Cota, the public information officer for the Laguna Beach police department who tweeted about the incident, told The Guardian that the SUV was a “complete total loss,” and that the Tesla’s front end was “pretty beat up.”
This morning a Tesla sedan driving outbound Laguna Canyon Road in “autopilot” collides with a parked @LagunaBeachPD unit. Officer was not in the unit at the time of the crash and minor injuries were sustained to the Tesla driver. #lagunabeach #police #tesla pic.twitter.com/7sAs8VgVQ3— Laguna Beach PD PIO (@LBPD_PIO_45) May 29, 2018
“It [the SUV] was mangled up pretty good. It took out the whole back end and halfway through the center part of the vehicle. There’s axle damage. It wouldn’t be worth repairing,” he said.
This is the latest crash involving a Tesla where the Autopilot feature was engaged, and marks the third time this year that one of the vehicles has hit a stationary emergency vehicle while in Autopilot mode.
While working a freeway accident this morning, Engine 42 was struck by a #Tesla traveling at 65 mph. The driver reports the vehicle was on autopilot. Amazingly there were no injuries! Please stay alert while driving! #abc7eyewitness #ktla #CulverCity #distracteddriving pic.twitter.com/RgEmd43tNe— Culver City Firefighters (@CC_Firefighters) January 22, 2018
A driver in China is thought to have been the first person killed while using Autopilot, back in January 2016. In June that same year, Joshua Brown was the first person in the US to die while using the feature.
A Model X hit a highway divider while in Autopilot mode in March, killing driver Walter Huang. Tesla said its own investigation showed Huang kept his hands off the wheel despite the vehicle’s warnings. NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board continue to investigate the case.
Last week, Tesla settled a class-action lawsuit brought by six Model S and Model X owners who alleged that the Autopilot system was “essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous.” Tesla's settlement didn’t mention the safety allegations but was instead paid out to compensate owners over the delayed Autopilot updates.
Tesla reiterated that the Autopilot feature requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and is designed for use on highways that have a center divider and clear lane markings.
The Autopilot system warns drivers who don't hold on to the wheel. Ignoring this will eventually see the feature disabled and can even cause the vehicle to pull up as a safety precaution. But some owners continue to leave the driver’s seat when it is activated, including a UK man who was caught on video sitting in the passenger seat while his Tesla did the driving.