The Blame Game: Driver Fingers Autosteer as Cop Car Collision Cause


Image: Laguna Beach PD, via Twitter

This won’t help our Pravda rating.

Police in Laguna Beach, California told the “media” that the driver of a Tesla Model S that collided with a parked Ford Police Interceptor Utility on Tuesday was operating in Autopilot mode. At least, that’s the driver’s claim.

Images released by Laguna Beach PD reveal a somewhat glancing rear impact, as it seems the police cruiser only slightly intruded into the driving lane. The cruiser, then unoccupied, was totalled, while the insurance company — if past collisions are any indicator — will probably declare the Tesla a write-off.

Right now, there’s no confirmation that autosteer and traffic-aware cruise control was enabled on the Tesla.

If this turns out to be a false claim, you’ll see an update here. If it isn’t, well, you’ll still read about it here. As it stands, we don’t know any details of what occurred inside the vehicle leading up to the collision, how fast it was travelling, or whether the driver received any visual or audible warnings. Tesla hasn’t released a data-filled blog post (as it sometimes does when Autopilot pops up negatively in the news).

Sgt Jim Cota, Laguna Beach PD’s public information officer, claims the Tesla driver received minor lacerations from his glasses in the collision.

Image: Laguna Beach PD

When contacted by The Guardian, a Tesla spokeswoman repeated the automaker’s safety instructions for the proper use of Autopilot features. “When using autopilot, drivers are continuously reminded of their responsibility to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times,” she said. “Tesla has always been clear that autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents, and before a driver can use autopilot, they must accept a dialogue box which states that ‘autopilot is designed for use on highways that have a center divider and clear lane markings’.”

Despite boastful pronouncements about Autopilot’s abilities in its infancy, Tesla maintains that drivers should only enable the features on proper, divided roadways. Drivers must also remain alert and keep their hands on the wheel. Still, the word “Autopilot” remains in use (much to the consternation of road safety groups), and videos of misuse are a click away on the internet.

This crash brings to mind a recent rear-end collision in Utah that also involved a stopped municipal vehicle. In that incident, a Model S maintained a steady cruise speed as it approached a red light, colliding with a fire truck at 60 mph. Investigations are underway to pinpoint why the car’s forward-facing cameras and radar failed to detect the obstacle and warn the driver.

[Images: Laguna Beach Police Department]