A Tesla in Autopilot mode crashed Saturday into a Florida Highway Patrol cruiser parked on the side of the road in Orlando.
The crash happened while a federal investigation into Tesla’s partially automated driving system is underway after nearly a dozen crashes involving emergency responder vehicles.
The official police report from the Florida Highway Patrol states an Orlando man stopped his disabled vehicle in the travel lane of the highway. A 28-year-old trooper parked his patrol vehicle, a 2018 Dodge Charger, directly behind the disabled vehicle and activated the Dodge’s emergency lights. The trooper then exited the vehicle to assist the driver.
The 2019 Tesla apparently failed to stop and struck the left side of the patrol cruiser, then proceeded to strike the disabled vehicle. The trooper was outside the vehicle and was not hit, but the driver of the disabled vehicle reportedly sustained minor injuries.
The 26-year-old Tesla driver from Baltimore said that the car was in Autopilot mode when the crash occurred.
“The crash remains under investigation, as we will be attempting to get that information confirmed,” said Lieutenant Kim Montes, Public Affairs Officer of the Florida Highway Patrol.
Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.
Autopilot has frequently been misused by Tesla drivers, some of whom have been caught driving drunk or even riding in the back seat while a car rolled down a California highway.
The electric vehicle maker uses a camera-based system, a lot of computing power, and sometimes radar to spot obstacles, determine what they are, and then decide what the vehicles should do. But researchers say it has had trouble with parked emergency vehicles and perpendicular trucks in its path.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened the Tesla probe after tallying 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on autopilot or cruise control have hit vehicles where first responders have used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards.
In those crashes, 17 people were injured and one was killed, the NHTSA said. An investigation could lead to a recall or other enforcement action.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which also has investigated Tesla crashes, has recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit the autopilot’s use to areas where it can safely operate. It also recommended that Tesla be required to improve its system to ensure drivers pay attention.
Last year, the NTSB blamed Tesla, drivers and lax regulation by NHTSA for two collisions in which Teslas crashed beneath crossing tractor-trailers.
The crashes into emergency vehicles cited by NHTSA began on Jan. 22, 2018, in Culver City, California, near Los Angeles when a Tesla using autopilot struck a parked firetruck with flashing lights. No one was injured in that accident.
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