Tesla Model S on Autopilot Crashes into Fire Truck in California

Law enforcement officers had two incidents involving Tesla vehicles on autopilot, including a crash into a Culver City fire truck on the freeway in Los Angeles.

According to California's Culver City Fire Department, the Tesla vehicle had been on autopilot, and traveling at 104km per hour, when it hit the parked fire truck.

However, for now the vehicle company has limited itself to saying that Autopilot is "intended for use only with a fully attentive driver" and that it has instructed drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel while employing it.

"Amazingly, there were no injuries", an official said. It says consumers are confusing autopilot - now available on some models of Cadillac, Volvo, Audi, and Nissan, as well as Tesla - with autonomous driving technology.

In its owner's manual, Tesla repeatedly warns drivers to pay attention to the road while using the semi-autonomous Autopilot system.

Car-makers suggest self-drive technologies should make the roads safer, but at present California requires a driver to remain behind the wheel so they can retake control at short notice. In other words, the system is only created to reduce the driver's workload by taking over repetitive and mundane tasks like staying in the lane and avoiding other moving cars. They also have flashing lights and noisy sirens, all the stuff you need to notice the truck and get out of its way.

According to a later report by the National Transportation Safety Board, the driver ignored repeated warnings to keep his hands on the steering wheel.

In a post on Twitter, the federal safety agency said the "field investigation" would examine both driver and vehicle factors in Monday's accident. The NTSB has concluded that the crash did not occur due to any defect in the Autopilot system.

For example, a fatal Tesla crash involving the autopilot system drew worldwide scrutiny in spring 2016. Model S also comes with Autopilot capabilities.

The California Highway Patrol and Culver City Fire Department confirmed the southbound Tesla had struck the fire truck, but could not immediately confirm whether the vehicle had been on Autopilot. The Model S had been set on autopilot and neither the vehicle nor the driver recognized that a tractor-trailer hauling blueberries had turned onto the divided highway.

  • Valerie Cook