The driver of a Tesla Model S wrecked with an unoccupied parked police car in Laguna Beach, California. The driver of the car told police officers that his Model S was in Autopilot at the time of impact, according to police reports.
The driver walked away but with multiple injuries, according to police records. Laguna Beach Sergeant Jim Cota posted images on Twitter showcasing that this wreck was no fender bender. The front of the Tesla had extensive damage as did the back portion of the police vehicle.
This is far from the first time the Tesla Autopilot has been in the news. In March, another driver died in a gruesome crash after not having his hands on the steering wheel while his Model X was on Autopilot mode. And this wreck certainly isn't the highest profile one involving the Model S in recent events. In early May, two Florida teenagers crashed their Model S and were killed in a fire sparked when the car hit a concrete wall.
Tesla's Autopilot feature has been one of the company's biggest selling points, and it's also one of the most hotly-contested features. In 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told an audience at a conference that Autopilot reduces chances of wrecking in half:
"The probability of having an accident is 50 percent lower if you have Autopilot on. Even with our first version," he said. "So we can see basically what’s the average number of kilometers to an accident – accident defined by airbag deployment. Even with this early version, it’s almost twice as good as a person."
It's important to note that those figures came from studies conducted by Tesla themselves. Over the last two years, Musk still maintains that Autopilot provides higher safety and more efficiency than human drivers. However, the company seems to be clarifying exactly when and how to use Autopilot to its drivers with every headline-making wreck.
"Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents," the company said in a statement after the accident. Tesla could not immediately confirm to media outlets whether the driver’s report that the vehicle was in Autopilot mode.
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
Tesla’s Model S owner’s manual tells drivers that Autopilot functionality "cannot detect all objects and may not brake/decelerate for stationary vehicles or objects especially when traveling over 50 mph (80 kph)." There could also be an issue when a vehicle ahead of the driver "moves out of your driving path and a stationary vehicle or object is in front of you."
With any autonomous vehicle, Tesla encourages drivers to stay alert with their hands free in the event that they'll have to take control of the wheel.
Interesting Engineering will continue tracking this story. Stay tuned for further updates.