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Tesla on Autopilot Crashes into Parked California Police Cruiser

Laguna Beach Police Department claims that the cruiser is a total loss.

Another Tesla has crashed and reports say that the driver had been utilizing the vehicle’s semi-autonomous driving feature, Autopilot, immediately preceding the accident. The Laguna Beach Police Department took to Twitter to show a Model S that had collided with one of its parked police cruisers shortly after 11:00 a.m. Tuesday.

According to police department officials, the cruiser was parked along Laguna Canyon Road when the Tesla struck the vehicle in the rear driver’s side quarter panel, rendering it totaled. Fortunately, the officer was not in the patrol car at the time of the accident, and the driver of the Model S reportedly sustained only minor injuries from the crash.

The driver claimed that the Tesla was operating on Autopilot, the semi-autonomous feature sold as a package for the all-electric sedan, allowing drivers to use what is essentially a hands-on driver’s aide to help guide the vehicle through standard highways and mapped routes. This feature has been a topic of controversy as an increasing number of drivers put the blame on Autopilot for their vehicles crashing into stationary objects, something which deters other drivers from engaging Autopilot themselves.

Tesla’s website clearly mentions that Autopilot is intended to be a “hands-on experience” and is not yet intended to be a fully autonomous replacement for the human driver. Though the car may assist drivers as a Level 2 Autonomous driver aide, it is not intended to be a set and forget type of technology. 

“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,” A Tesla spokesperson told The Drive, “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.’”

One Twitter user commented on the stretch of road which the accident occurred on, pointing out that the particular area may have been confusing to the vehicle’s sensors causing the vehicle to merge into the parked vehicle while attempting to change lanes. There have been scenarios in the past in which Autopilot has misinterpreted complex or non-standard road markings, something which may be similar to the cause of this accident, and it’s one of the leading reasons why Tesla’s call for drivers to be attentive at all times.

It is unclear whether the local police department has reached out to Tesla regarding the collection of the events leading up to the accident, however this has been the norm in any high-profile accident involving a Tesla-branded vehicle, especially when Autopilot may have been involved.