Minnesota Tesla Crash Driver Retracts Autopilot Blame

The black box would speak the truth if the driver didn't.

via Getty Images

Tesla was slapped with yet another story of Autopilot failure on Monday, when a driver claimed the semi-autonomous driving feature caused his Model S to roll into a marsh. The vehicle was approaching a T-junction, at which, it would have to either make a left or a right, but could not continue onward. The driver, David Clark, reportedly put the responsibility on the car's Autopilot feature, which he alleged was in control of the vehicle at the time of the crash. Not only did the car not make the turn, he said it accelerated on its own. 

Since Monday, however, Clark has retracted his claims of an Autopilot malfunction. According to an email sent to the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office, Clark said he was rattled by the experience and misspoke, Electrek reports. Furthermore, he has recanted his allegation that Autopilot accelerated on its own, as he now states that Autopilot was not even active.

"To the best of my recollection I had engaged the autopilot system but then I had disengaged it by stepping on accelerator," Clark said, according to Electrek. "I then remember looking up and seeing the sharp left turn which I was accelerating into. I believe we started to make the turn but then felt the car give way and lose its footing like we hit loose gravel."

Clark may be describing what some of us know as understeer. Whether his original claim of an Autopilot failure was made to shift blame or simply a mistake made under the duress and confusion of having endured a rollover accident is not known. 

This does eliminate Tesla's need to check the car's black box, which would have cleared up any doubts over responsibility for the crash. If Clark maintained his story that Tesla was responsible for his crash, and the black box showed otherwise, he could have faced potential legal action.

Tesla has been the subject of much undue blame for crashes by drivers not wanting to stain their own reputations. Earlier this year, a distracted driver relying on Autopilot was killed after crashing into a truck. Tesla insists that its drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel even when Autopilot is active, as their vehicles are only capable of Level 2 Autonomy.

Let this serve as a lesson, for those in Teslas and other vehicles: Keep your hands on the wheel at all times, and don't confuse your pedals.