The injured officers involved in the crash are now suing Tesla.
The Wall Street Journal has obtained exclusive 2021 dashcam footage of a Tesla Model X crashing into a stopped emergency vehicle with its Autopilot system turned on — a shocking demonstration of the dangerous shortcomings of the carmaker's driver assistance software.
According to law enforcement, the driver was intoxicated and swerving in his lane while driving down a Texas highway just after midnight. Then, the driver turned on the EV maker's signature driver assistance feature at 64 mph.
The feature alerted the driver to engage with the steering wheel while Autopilot was turned on 150 times over 30 or so minutes.
While it easily recognized moving and merging vehicles on the highway, Autopilot clearly struggled to notice a stationary police vehicle occupying a lane ahead of the driver — even with its lights flashing.
According to the vehicle's logs, the driver wiggled the steering wheel to notify the feature he was paying attention, but just seconds later, it slammed into the emergency vehicle at 55 mph, resulting in the brutal dashcam footage.
Five officers were injured in the crash and are now suing Tesla, according to the WSJ, claiming that Autopilot was responsible. Tesla is denying the allegations.
Despite their misleading names, Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features require the driver to closely watch, poised to take over control at any time.
This kind of confusion — which could give some drivers a false sense of security, especially while sleeping behind the wheel or driving under the influence — has caught the attention of regulators, who've launched several investigations into the company over these crashes.
In 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened its investigation into crashes with parked emergency vehicles before widening its scope in light of additional injuries and deaths in 2022.
That's despite Tesla issuing an over-the-air software update in September 2021, which was meant to address the issue. Yet, as the WSJ points out, some of the crashes NHTSA is investigating occurred after this update was issued.
Critics say the Elon Musk-led company has done too little to address the issue. To this day, the company's driver assistance features are easily fooled by hanging cheap weights on the steering wheel or even taping over the driver-facing camera that is designed to gauge attentiveness.
According to a recent analysis of NHTSA data by The Washington Post, the number of deaths involving Autopilot has surged over the last year.
More on Autopilot: The Number of Known Deaths Involving Tesla's Autopilot Has Surged
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