The driver of a Tesla crashed into a Nash County police vehicle last Wednesday while the car was on autopilot, with law enforcement officials saying he was watching a movie at the time.
The collision occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning, just after midnight, on a rural stretch of a highway near the Franklin/Nash County line in North Carolina.
A Highway Patrol trooper had been assisting a Nash County deputy with another crash on the side of the road when the Tesla Model S slammed into the deputy’s cruiser, according to the Highway Patrol.
You can see the damage done in the crash below:
The crash was so forceful it sent the cruiser into the trooper’s vehicle, which subsequently pushed two officers to the ground. ‘Thankfully no one was injured,’ Trooper Jeff Wilson of the Highway Patrol told CBS 17.
A spokesperson for the Highway Patrol said the driver of the Tesla, identified as Devainder Goli of Raleigh, had told them he was watching a film on his phone when the collision occurred.
Goli also informed officers that the car had been on autopilot at the time, a function that doesn’t allow for as much freedom at the wheel as the name suggests; according to Tesla’s instructions, drivers must be ‘fully attentive’ and keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times.
Goli was charged with violating the ‘move over law’ – a state law that states motorists must move over for stopped emergency responders – and with watching television while operating a vehicle.
Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said:
It was a simple lane closure and then suddenly death was at our footsteps. It shows automation is never going to take the place of the motoring public paying attention – not texting, not being on the phone, but focusing on what you were doing, that is, driving.
This is not the first incident where a Tesla has driven off the road or crashed into another vehicle while the driver has been operating on autopilot; in fact, the most recent occurred just last month, when an Arizona state trooper’s cruiser was hit by another Tesla.
And although Tesla CEO Elon Musk insists naming the function ‘autopilot’ is perfectly reasonable and easy to understand, public safety officials and industry experts have said the name is extremely misleading.
In fact, a survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) last year found the name ‘autopilot’ creates misconceptions. Of the 2,000 drivers surveyed, almost half indicated they would take their hands off the steering wheel while the system was in autopilot.
Not only that, but more than a third of participants thought it was okay to talk on the phone, 16% said they would text, and almost 6% thought it was okay to take a nap while the system was in in autopilot.
As a result, the IIHS recommended changing the names of systems such as autopilot to something that isn’t likely to lead drivers to believe their cars will drive themselves – a recommendation that should surely get traction considering the most recent crashes.
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CreditsCBS 17 and 2 others
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)