Tesla Autopilot Causes 2 More Accidents

A Tesla Model X driving on Autopilot crashed on Montana State Highway 2 while driving between 55-60 MPH. Neither the driver nor his passenger were injured in the accident, but it was serious enough to destroy the car.

Photo Caption: A Tesla Model X driving on Autopilot crashed into the railing wires along the side of Montana State Highway 2 on Saturday, July 9. (Photo Credit: Eresan/Tesla Motors Club Forum)

It’s been a rough couple weeks for Tesla. There have now been three serious accidents allegedly involving Tesla Autopilot, the company’s semi-autonomous driving system.

The latest crash occurred Saturday, July 9 at 12:30 AM in Montana. The driver of a Tesla Model X told local authorities that the car, while on Autopilot at 55-65 MPH, crashed into railing wires along the side of Montana State Highway 2. Neither the driver nor his passenger were injured, but it was serious enough to destroy the car.

Tesla has since confirmed that the car was on Autopilot, but the company said the driver likely did not have his hands on the wheel - something Tesla has repeatedly said is a big no-no. Here’s how Tesla responded to the Montana accident (via CNN Money):

“No force was detected on the steering wheel for over two minutes after [Autopilot] was engaged.”

“As road conditions became increasingly uncertain, the vehicle again alerted the driver to put his hands on the wheel. He did not do so and shortly thereafter the vehicle collided with a post on the edge of the roadway.”

“We specifically advise against its use at high speeds on undivided roads.”

A friend of the driver posted pictures of the crash and details of the incident on the Tesla Motors Club forum afterwards:

“Both 2 people in the car survived. It was late at night, Autopilot did not detect a wood stake on the road, hit more than 20 wood stakes, tire on front passenger side and lights flew away. The speed limit is 55, he was driving 60 on autopilot. His car is completely destroyed. The place he had the accident does not have cellphone signal, it is 100 miles from the hotel.

“Just got more photos from the driver. The car was in autopilot at speeds between 56-60, the car drove off the road hit the guard rail wood posts. I questioned him how can AP drove off the road himself, he said he also want to find out.”

On July 1, 2016, 77-year-old Albert Scaglione flipped his Model X onto its roof while driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He said the car was driving on Autopilot at the time of the accident, but Tesla said it disagrees and has “no reason to believe that Autopilot had anything to do with this accident.” Scaglione and the passenger, his son-in-law, were treated and released at a nearby hospital following the accident.

This string of Tesla Autopilot crashes kicked off June 30 when news broke about the fatal crash that killed 40-year-old Joshua Brown. The crash occurred on May 7, 2016 in Williston, Fla. when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla, and the car failed to apply the brakes.

It turns out the Autopilot system was never designed to handle the scenario that led to this fatal crash. Mobileye, the Israeli company that builds the Autopilot system, said that “today’s collision avoidance technology, or Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), is defined as rear-end collision avoidance, and is designed specifically for that. This [fatal] incident involved a laterally crossing vehicle, which current-generation AEB systems are not designed to actuate upon. Mobileye systems will include Lateral Turn Across Path (LTAP) detection capabilities beginning in 2018, and the Euro NCAP safety ratings will include this beginning in 2020.”

Tesla said “neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.”

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said there are no plans to disable Autopilot and, in fact, the company plans to up its efforts to educate customers on how Autopilot works.

“A lot of people don’t understand what it is and how you turn it on,” Musk said.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.


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