On Monday morning, a Tesla Model S slammed into a stationary firetruck at around 65mph on Interstate 405 in Culver City, California.
Firefighters said the Tesla driver claimed the vehicle was on Autopilot - a feature that gives "full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver", as the company explains on its website. The Culver City Firefighters Twitter account tweeted out photos of the crash, stating "Amazingly there were no injuries". Despite its catchy name, Autopilot is not a level five autonomous driving technology which, when eventually developed, will allow for the vehicle to operate without driver involvement.
Tesla, for example, warns that its autopilot system is not fully autonomous. The company did not confirm that autopilot had actually been used by the driver. The Super Cruise system uses a small dash-mounted camera to track a drivers head and ensure that they are paying attention to the road. There's also "ultrasonic" sensors all around the vehicle to detect hard and soft objects.
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Tesla's autopilot feature requires driver to touch the steering wheel periodically to prove they are alert. Model S also comes with Autopilot capabilities.
The unidentified motorist claims that the vehicle was functioning on autopilot at the time of the crash, but officials are still unable to confirm this. And this is not the first time a Tesla on autopilot has been involved in a mishap. Quite a few other drivers have lodged complaints regarding this model of auto undergoing an accident while on Autopilot Mode.
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A company's spokesperson reported that the autopilot system is created to work with a fully attentive driver.
According to commentators, the investigation offers NTSB's highway division an opportunity to focus on broader safety issues related to automated driving technologies and how Tesla's Autopilot system functions, but may not necessarily lead to a full report and a meeting before the agency's five-member board.
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