Tesla Model S on Autopilot Crashes into Fire Truck in California

But this Autopilot mode seems to be not much help for a driver in California, as a Tesla Model S driver smashed into the back of a parked fire truck on Monday, according to California fire officials. The driver reports the vehicle was on autopilot. The Culver City Firefighters Twitter account tweeted out photos of the crash, stating "Amazingly there were no injuries".

Tesla classifies Autopilot as a "driver assistance system" and not "autonomous driving". The company claims it's tried to educate drivers on how to safely operate the system, but critics have pointed out that many owners still don't understand how truly limited Autopilot really is. For instance, before a driver can enable the autopilot, the driver must tell the software that he or she acknowledges rules about being prepared and engaged at all times. This means that Tesla's autopilot is "driver-assisted" technology that requires drivers to always be fully aware and ready to take control to the steering wheel and pedals. The system is only developed to lower the driver's workload by taking over mundane and repetitive tasks like avoiding other moving cars and staying in the lane.

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In a 2017 TED Talk, Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that by 2019 the company's cars will have self-driving technology so advanced that they will be "unlikely to crash in a minimum of 100 lifetimes" and allow drivers to sleep through their rides.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Tesla's Autopilot failed during a road test. There's also "ultrasonic" sensors all around the vehicle to detect hard and soft objects.

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The transportation safety board also issued safety recommendations to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and two other manufacturers of Level 2 vehicle automation systems. Tesla's "autopilot" is not fully autonomous driving, though it can look like it for short stretches and under specific conditions.

The NTSB found no defects in a Tesla autopilot system that was in use during a fatal crash in May 2016, the New York Times reported in January 2017.

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In other words, the system is only created to reduce the driver's workload by taking over repetitive and mundane tasks like staying in the lane and avoiding other moving cars.

  • Israel Montgomery