Officials in Washington State are investigating a crash involving a Tesla, which they say was in Autopilot mode when it collided with a parked police SUV.
According to an ABC news report, there were no injuries in the crash. But the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department said in a Facebook post that the incident caused significant damage to the patrol vehicle.
Washington State Patrol, which is leading the investigation, told ABC that it is probing a collision involving a 2015 Tesla Model S and a Ford Explorer patrol vehicle belonging to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department. The crash occurred in Arlington, a suburb north of Seattle. A sheriff’s deputy was investigating a separate incident involving a car that had slammed into a utility pole, and had parked his patrol car on the shoulder.
The Tesla then approached and crashed into the left side of the deputy’s vehicle, which had the overhead emergency lights activated and was partially blocking the roadway to protect the collision scene. While troopers investigated the collision, the driver of the Tesla claimed that he had the vehicle in Autopilot mode and said he “assumed the vehicle would slow down and move over on its own.”
Controversy Over Autopilot
In a social media post, the sheriff’s department called the incident “a great reminder” that Autopilot is an assistive feature, but it “cannot be relied upon to get you safely from one destination to the next.” This incident in Washington State is just the latest in a spate of accidents over the years reportedly involving Tesla’s Autopilot feature. Earlier this month, a man was killed when his Tesla Model 3 struck an overturned semi-truck in the city of Fontana. Authorities said the vehicle’s Autopilot feature was engaged at the time of the crash.
After several similar accidents involving Autopilot, Tesla issued statements that drivers cannot count on Autopilot to do their jobs and that they should be alert at all times even when the vehicle is in Autopilot mode.
So, if the Autopilot is not an autonomous or even semi-autonomous feature, should Tesla not get rid of the name “Autopilot” and make it very clear to consumers what it can and cannot do? Consumer Reports thought so, as did federal safety regulators. Automakers should never put products in the market that are not ready for primetime. Manufacturers of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles especially should do their due diligence when it comes to testing these vehicles before putting them on the road.