'Autopilot' Tesla crashed into our parked patrol car, say SoCal cops

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Police in Laguna Beach, California, have said a Tesla car – which the driver claimed had been operating in "autopilot" mode – has crashed into one of the force's stationary cop cars.

Photos of the incident were tweeted by Laguna Beach Police Department Public Information Sergeant Jim Cota on Tuesday (this morning UK time). The force said the driver of the Tesla had claimed the car was in Autopilot, which is not fully autonomous.

A Tesla spokeswoman said: "When using Autopilot, drivers are continuously reminded of their responsibility to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times.

"Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents, 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."

It has not been confirmed that the crash occurred while autopilot mode was engaged, but the crash will draw attention to other incidents where drivers were alleged to be using Tesla's "super-cruise-control" system.

Earlier this year, a Tesla Model S slammed into a stationary firetruck at around 65mph (105kph) on Interstate 405 in Culver City, California. The car was driven under the fire engine, although the driver was able to walk away from the crash uninjured and refused an offer of medical treatment.

Back in 2016, a driver was killed after both he and the Tesla systems missed a lorry pulling across the highway.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk, has moaned about media attention on Tesla crashes, having recently tweeted: "It's super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage."

Last week Tesla agreed to settle a class action lawsuit with buyers of its Model S and Model X cars, who had alleged the Autopilot system was "essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous".

Consumer advocacy groups have also written to the Federal Trade Commission (PDF) asking it to investigate what they term as Tesla's "deceptive and misleading" use of the name "Autopilot", claiming Americans wouldn't know it wasn't a fully autonomous driving system.

Tesla said the feedback from its customers "shows that they have a very clear understanding of what Autopilot is, how to properly use it, and what features it consists of."

We have asked Tesla for comment. ®

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