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Tesla on Autopilot with Suspected Drunk Driver Behind Wheel Crashes in Arizona

Fire Dangers in Older Tesla Models Renew Safety Concerns About Aging Electric Vehicles

Police are probing a possible drunk driving case involving a Tesla driver in Arizona who said he was using the automaker’s controversial Autopilot system when his sedan crashed into an unoccupied police vehicle, which hit an ambulance.

According to a report in The Mercury News, the crash occurred July 14 on an Arizona highway. Officials with the state’s Department of Public Safety said the driver told troopers that his Tesla was on Autopilot at the time of the collision.

They also said the driver was under investigation for driving under the influence. The police sergeant who had driven the department’s SUV was not in it at the time of the crash and the ambulance’s occupants were not injured, police said. Tesla’s driver was hospitalized with serious injuries but is expected to survive. The investigation is ongoing.

Autopilot’s Dubious Record

Crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance system have led to multiple investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board. The agency found that a Tesla driver’s excessive reliance on the automated system played a role in a 2015 fatal Model S crash in Florida and determined that in 2018, in Mountain View, the Autopilot feature steered a Tesla Model X SUV into a Highway 101 barrier – a collision that caused a driver’s death.

In another fatal Florida crash between a Model 3 sedan and a truck in March 2019, the agency blamed the driver’s over-reliance on automation and Tesla’s design of the Autopilot system, as well as the automaker’s failure to limit the use of the system “to the conditions for which it was designed.” 

The agency also found Autopilot was a factor when a Model S slammed into the back of a fire truck on I-405 in Culver City near Los Angeles in 2018. We’ve also seen several videos on social media of driver’s sleeping behind the wheel, while their Tesla is on Autopilot cruising Southern California freeways.

Crashes and deaths related to Tesla

Tesla’s Legal Troubles

Tesla is facing a number of ongoing legal troubles, including civil rights, class action and even employment law issues.:

Class action lawsuit over driving range: In February 2023, Tesla was sued for fraud after reports revealed the company has been knowingly inflating driving-range numbers at the behest of CEO Elon Musk. The class action suit comes seven months after South Korean regulators fined Tesla for the same issue.

Class action lawsuit over Autopilot and Full Self-Driving: In February 2023, Tesla was sued for “false and misleading statements” about the effectiveness and safety of its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems. A similar but separate lawsuit over the same was also filed last September.

NHTSA investigation into Autopilot and driver assistance systems: The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating Tesla’s steering and driver assistance systems. In August 2022, the NHTSA sent a letter to Tesla requesting more data on the Autopilot and driver assistance systems technology.

California Civil Rights Department suit: The California Civil Rights Department filed a suit in 2022 alleging “a pattern of racial harassment and bias” at the Tesla Fremont factory. As of April 2023, the Department is also conducting a probe of the factory based on a 2021 complaint and claims that Tesla has been obstructing the investigation.

Employment lawsuits: Tesla is also facing a number of employment lawsuits, including allegations of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, wage theft, and worker safety violations.

It is important to note that Tesla has denied any wrongdoing in these cases. However, the company’s legal troubles could significantly impact its business, especially if it is found to have violated any laws or regulations.

Federal Investigations

Tesla is currently under investigation by two federal agencies:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): The NHTSA is investigating Tesla’s Autopilot and driver assistance systems following a series of fatal crashes. The investigation is focused on whether Tesla’s systems are correctly designed and whether drivers are adequately warned of the limitations of the systems.

US Department of Justice (DOJ): The DOJ is investigating Tesla’s claims that its electric vehicles can drive themselves. The investigation is focused on whether Tesla’s marketing materials are misleading and whether the company has made false statements to investors.

Both of these investigations are still in their early stages, and it is unclear what the outcome will be. However, if Tesla is found to have violated any laws or regulations, it could face significant penalties, including fines and recalls.  Tesla has denied any wrongdoing in all of these cases. However, the company’s legal troubles could significantly impact its business, especially if it is found to have violated any laws or regulations.

Drivers Have Been Misled

Tesla has described its Autopilot feature as an “advanced driver assistance system” intended for use by an attentive person with his or her hands on the wheel and is prepared to take control at any time. But, we have seen time and time again that drivers are simply misled into believing that this is a fully autonomous feature they can rely on at all times. 

Our auto defect law firm believes that the Autopilot has essentially lulled drivers into a sense of false security leading them to believe it’s safe to let the vehicle cruise. At the same time, he is on Autopilot and does not pay attention to the road.


Brian Chase

Brian Chase

Brian Chase is a nationwide auto defect lawyer who has represented thousands of individuals who have been injured in car accidents. He is a partner at Bisnar Chase and has won hundreds of millions for his clients.

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