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 in turn 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.
Drivers Have Been Misled
Tesla has described its Autopilot feature as an “advanced driver assistance system” that is intended for use by an attentive person who has 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 lawyers believe 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 while on Autopilot and not really pay attention to the road.