Legal Grounds - The FindLaw Legal News with an Attitude Blog

Tesla Model S Autopilots Itself Into a Parked Police Car

The last thing you want, if you're a maker of self-driving cars, is for one of those self-driving cars to crash. People don't want to ride in a self-driving car that crashes. Understandable, right?

But some crashes are inevitable. After all, people-driven cars crash all the time -- in staggering numbers, in fact -- and this is all very new technology, so there are bound to be some crashes. And the last thing you want your self-driving car to crash into? The cops.

All the Lucky People

After CEO Elon Musk had a truly staggering two weeks on Twitter, one of Tesla's Model S sedans plowed into a parked Laguna Beach Police cruiser. The driver claims the vehicle was in autopilot mode at the time of the crash, which, from photos at least, looks like the car t-boned the cop's SUV while it was parallel parked on Laguna Canyon Road. Fortunately, the officer was not in the cruiser at the time of the accident, and the Tesla "driver" escaped relatively unscathed. "The police car," according to Laguna Police Sergeant Jim Cota, "is totaled."

And this is far from the first accident involving one of Tesla's self-driving cars. There have been two fatal crashes while cars were allegedly in Autopilot mode, and the NHTSA is investigating why a woman's Tesla collided with a stopped fire truck at 60 miles per hour in Utah earlier this month. "Why do these vehicles keep doing that?" Cota asked. "We're just lucky that people aren't getting injured."

An Open Dialogue Box

Why, indeed? Perhaps it's because the self-driving mode offered by Tesla is called "Autopilot," and does not, as its creator concedes, acts like anything but. "Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn't make the car impervious to all accidents," a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, "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.'" Verily, how could someone click the "Agree" button without having fully read the terms and conditions?

Tesla has also warned drivers to stay alert while using the Autopilot function, keeping their hands on the wheel and maintaining control of the vehicle. Which begs the question: Who's driving the self-driving car?

Related Resources: