Tesla’s infamous Autopilot mode faced its latest reckoning this past weekend after it caused a driver to careen straight into a Washington state deputy’s vehicle that was parked at the side of the road.
In a statement posted to the Facebook page for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, the department said that the Tesla did pretty “significant damage” to the deputy’s vehicle, which was parked on the shoulder of the road at the time. From the photos attached to the department’s post, it looks like the Tesla rammed straight into the side of the patrol car, denting the back door and nearly ripping off a driver’s side mirror.
According to NBC News, the Tesla driver—who was slapped with a ticket over the crash—just expected that his vehicle would sense the deputy’s vehicle and maneuver around it, rather than slam into its side.
He’s hardly the first one to make this kind of mistake. Despite the fact that Tesla’s own website states that its Autopilot mode requires “active driver supervision” and “does not make [these cars] autonomous,” we’ve seen multiple fatal wrecks result from drivers seemingly ignoring those caveats. At the start of 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (or NHTSA) opened a formal investigation into more than a dozen Tesla crashes dating back to 2016 that the agency suspects might have involved Autopilot in some way.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s headaches have continued into 2021. Last week, NHTSA announced it would be opening a probe into the case of yet another fatal crash that happened in California at the start of the month. While the question of whether or not the driver was on Autopilot is still open, the California Highway Patrol has come out saying it firmly suspects that might be the case.
We’ve reached out to Tesla for comment on the Washington crash and will update this post when we learn more.