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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
the blame game driver fingers autosteer as cop car collision cause

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.

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]

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2 of 45 comments
  • Rasputin Rasputin on May 31, 2018

    The fact that the "overweight police" vehicle was 'totaled' and the "wouldn't exist without taxpayer money" vehicle is a 'write off' is a bigger economic problem for society than what the idiot driver of the government vehicle did or did not do prior to the crash.

  • NeilM NeilM on May 31, 2018

    Regarding the Utah collision where a Tesla ran into the rear of a stationary fire truck, the account I read said that the Tesla had been following another car. That car pulled out into the left lane — at the last moment, or a pretty late moment? — to go around the fire truck, at which point the Tesla continued straight on and ran into the stopped fire truck at speed. I've seen no statement as to how long the Tesla had to detect and process the newly revealed hazard. The Tesla's forward collision avoidance system, however good or bad it may be, only reacts to the vehicle directly in front, and can't look beyond that as an alert human driver would. This is also true of other makes of semi-autonomous driving systems.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.