Emergent Tech

Aut-doh!-pilot: Driver jams 65mph Tesla Model S under fire truck, walks away from crash

Another 'leccie driver who didn't RTFM

By Iain Thomson in San Francisco

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Another Tesla driver needs reminding that the flash motor's Autopilot mode doesn't mean you can ignore what's on the road.

On Monday morning, a Tesla Model S slammed into a stationary firetruck at around 65mph 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.

The motorist claimed the Model S was driving with Autopilot enabled when it crammed itself under the truck. Autopilot is Tesla's super-cruise-control system. It's not a fully autonomous driving system.

“It was a pretty big hit,” Culver City Fire Department battalion chief Ken Powell told the Mercury News.

The fire truck was parked in the carshare lane of the road with its lights flashing. None of the fire crew were hurt, although Powell noted that if his team had been in their usual position at the back of the truck then there “probably would not have been a very good outcome.”

Tesla will no doubt be going over the car's computer logs to determine exactly what happened, something the California Highway Patrol will also be interested in. If this was a case of the driver sticking on Autopilot, and forgetting their responsibility to watch the road ahead it wouldn’t be the first time.

In 2016, a driver was killed after both he and the Tesla systems missed a lorry pulling across the highway. A subsequent investigation by the US National Transportation Safety Board found the driver was speeding and had been warned by the car six times to keep his hands on the wheel.

Tesla has since beefed up the alerts the car will give a driver if it feels they aren't paying full attention to the road. The safety board did note in its report that the introduction of Tesla's Autosteer software had cut collisions by 40 per cent.

"Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver," Tesla told The Register in a statement today.

Tesla would also recommend that drivers stay sober, something one owner seemingly forgot over the weekend. On Saturday evening, a bloke was arrested after he passed out at the wheel on San Francisco's Bay Bridge, which runs between the city and Oakland, and his motor had come to a stop. The cops found the guy with twice the legal limit of alcohol in his body.

According to the police, the idiot tried to claim that he was OK to risk his own life, and that of other drivers, by driving drunk because his Tesla was on Autopilot. He was cuffed at the scene and charged with driving under the influence.

As with any piece of hardware, just RTFM. ®

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