On Saturday morning, a 2019 Tesla Model 3, reportedly on Autopilot, crashed into two parked cars in Orlando, Florida.
The Orlando division of Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) tweeted the following:
Happening now: Orange County. Trooper stopped to help a disabled motorist on I-4. When Tesla driving on “auto” mode struck the patrol car. Trooper was outside of car and extremely lucky to have not been struck. #moveover. WB lanes of I-4 remain block as scene is being cleared. pic.twitter.com/w9N7cE4bAR
— FHP Orlando (@FHPOrlando) August 28, 2021
According to FHP’s report, at the time of the incident, a trooper had stopped to help another driver whose 2012 Mercedes GLK 350 was disabled at the side of the Interstate 4 in Orlando.
The highway officer had already stepped out of the police vehicle, a 2018 Dodge Charger, when the Tesla run into it. First, it hit the left side of the police car, and then it hit the Mercedes.
Fortunately, there were no fatalities. According to the Associated Press, the 27-year-old Tesla driver and the driver of the disabled Mercedes sustained minor injuries, while the police officer remained unhurt.
CNBC reports that the Model 3 driver told officers that she was using Autopilot when the collision took place. Nevertheless, the incident will be under investigation in order to determine whether Autopilot caused or contributed to the crash.
The police have informed the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Tesla — which hasn’t provided any comments yet — about the incident.
Sadly, it seems that Autopilot accidents are happening too often to be ignored.
Just two weeks ago, the US government, led by the NHTSA, opened an official probe into Tesla’s Autopilot, prompted by a series of crashes involving Teslas and emergency vehicles. The investigation will cover Model Y, X, S, and 3 vehicles released from 2014 through 2021, amounting up to 765,000 units.
It’s also hopeful that, following the investigation, Democratic senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into Tesla’s claims about its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capabilities.
Especially the second initiative is very hopeful, as simply identifying potential software deficiencies isn’t enough.
What lies at the core of this problem is the misconception that Autopilot can deliver fully autonomous driving. And while Tesla has been recently offering warnings on its software’s limitations, we should nevertheless by wary of the “autonowashing” that usually lurks in its marketing strategy.
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