On February 27, 2021, a 2019 Tesla Model X that was reportedly on Autopilot crashed into a police vehicle at 54 mph. Five police offers who were conducting a routine traffic stop were injured as a result of the crash. The driver that was pulled over by the police was also injured.
Reports have indicated that the driver of the Model X was intoxicated at the time of the incident. Nevertheless, the five police offers who were injured have filed legal action against the electric vehicle maker. The lawsuit alleged that Tesla has not done enough to address issues with its Autopilot driver-assist system, and they are seeking damages between $1 million to $20 million for injuries and permanent disabilities.
An investigation from The Wall Street Journal was able to retrieve footage from the ill-fated 2019 Model X. As it turned out, the driver of the all-electric SUV received 150 warnings from Autopilot prior to the crash. The warnings advised the driver to take control of the vehicle, and they were engaged in a 34-minute time span.
The 2019 Model X is not equipped with an in-cabin camera, so the vehicle’s Autopilot driver monitoring system largely relied on whether torque could be detected on the steering wheel. Considering the 150 warnings that the driver received, it would appear that the driver was able to apply just enough torque to the steering wheel to keep Autopilot active.
Interestingly enough, the reportedly intoxicated Model X driver did eventually heed Autopilot’s advice after he received the 150th warning from the vehicle. At this point, however, the Tesla was only 2.5 seconds and 37 yards from the parked police vehicle. The WSJ noted that Autopilot tried to stop the Model X, but the system seemed to have disengaged with the expectation that the driver would take over.
Tesla has maintained that the fault lies in the reportedly intoxicated Model X driver. In a way, the electric vehicle maker has a point since a vehicle without Autopilot might have crashed immediately after the driver stopped paying attention to the road — and injured far more people as a result. That being said, if a driver receives 150 warnings from Autopilot, a Tesla should probably just be programmed to pull over, as it is evident that the driver is not paying attention to the road.
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