A Tesla using its partially automated driving system slammed into a Florida Highway Patrol cruiser Saturday on an interstate near downtown Orlando and narrowly missed its driver, who had pulled over to assist a disabled vehicle.
Following a series of similar collisions with parked emergency vehicles, the US government launched a formal investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot driving technology earlier this month.
According to highway patrol spokeswoman Lt. Kim Montes, the trooper whose cruiser was hit shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday had activated his emergency lights and was on his way to the disabled vehicle when the Tesla hit the cruiser’s left side and then crashed with the other vehicle.
The report said the 27-year-old man in the Tesla and the driver of the disabled vehicle suffered minor injuries and the trooper was unhurt.
Tesla did not immediately respond to an email sent to its press address.
Tesla drivers have been caught driving drunk or even riding in the back seat while a car rolled down a California highway, showing how Autopilot may be misused.
The electric vehicle maker uses a camera-based system, a lot of computing power, and sometimes radar to spot obstacles, determine what they are, and then decide what the vehicles should do. But researchers say it has had trouble with parked emergency vehicles and perpendicular trucks in its path.
After 11 crashes in which Teslas on autopilot or cruise control connected with cars when first responders used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, or cones to warn of risks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into Tesla.
In those crashes, 17 people were injured and one was killed, the NHTSA said. An investigation could lead to a recall or other enforcement action.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which also has investigated Tesla crashes, has recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit the autopilot’s use to areas where it can safely operate. It also recommended that Tesla be required to improve its system to ensure drivers pay attention.
Last year, the NTSB criticized Tesla, drivers, and lax NHTSA regulation for two crashes in which Teslas crashed with tractor-trailers.
The crashes into emergency vehicles cited by NHTSA began on Jan. 22, 2018, in Culver City, California, near Los Angeles when a Tesla using autopilot struck a parked firetruck with flashing lights. No one was injured in that accident.
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