The Tesla That Crashed Into a Truck Was on Autopilot!

Posted by: Jeremy Patterson on 11/17/2021

Innovative automaker Tesla has found itself in a bit of a tight spot lately after it’s cars have been involved in accidents while in “autopilot” mode. For those unfamiliar with this functionality, Tesla incorporates a host of sensors and cameras that work in unison to keep the car in its lane and operating safely in traffic, including steering the car, making speed adjustments, and braking.

One thing that autopilot does not do – and it should be noted that Tesla has never claimed any of its cars do this – is react to stop signs or traffic signals. While they obviously have no control over when or where drivers activate the autopilot feature, Tesla has suggested that it be used on freeways where “driving is less complicated”.

Researching this morning, I’ve been unable to find anything in Tesla’s documentation that claims their cars can or do react to traffic signs or signals. The latest incident involved a Model S that ran a redlight and hit a fire truck at 60 MPH, and the driver claimed the car was in autopilot mode and that she was looking at her phone at the time of the collision, a situation where autopilot is clearly not intended to be used.

While it’s not our place to blame either side, what it sounds like is needed is a clear definition of what the autopilot does and doesn’t do, and the responsibility for that lies on both sides in my opinion. Perhaps a thorough driver training course should not only be offered, but required for new owners of any car that offers an autopilot-type functionality. For the driver’s part, we should always be aware of our surroundings, even if the car is supposed to be driving itself.

Luckily for the driver of the Tesla, she suffered only a broken ankle. Any collision at 60 MPH certainly has the potential to be fatal, and to see how well the car held up is a positive to take away from this negative situation. Hopefully Tesla continues to refine its autopilot system, and perhaps this will serve as a wake up call to other Tesla drivers to keep an eye on the road, even if their hands aren’t on the wheel.