A driver suffered "minor injuries" after his Tesla sedan that was running in autopilot mode crashed into a parked police car in Laguna Beach, California on Tuesday authorities said.
The man told USA Today that he had engaged the Tesla's autopilot before getting into the crash. It's the latest in a series of bad press for the semi-autonomous driving feature of the electric cars manufactured by Elon Musk's company.
Tesla has repeatedly told consumers that their autopilot system should only be used to assist, not replace an alert human driver, a distinction that has many consumer groups crying foul. Consumer Watchdog Group Privacy and Technology Director John Simpson says Tesla's portrayal of its autopilot is dangerous.
"If you're touting something as being self-driving when it really isn't, people start to not pay attention and guess what? The autopilot doesn't drive the car itself, and people get killed," said Simpson.
Tesla says the recent accidents are the result of human error, not from the autopilot feature itself. In a statement provided to USA Today, the manufacturer wrote, “When using Autopilot, drivers are continuously reminded of their responsibility to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times.”
"That creates the dangerous image that the car can do more than it can do," Simpson says.
Tesla's autopilot feature is already under scrutiny after a driver died when his Model X SUV crossed a center divider in Mountain View, California while in Autopilot mode. Another driver in Salt Lake City was hurt in a crash when her car hit a parked fire truck. Tesla said both cases involved drivers who were distracted or ignored the car's warnings to take control.
Last week, Tesla settled a lawsuit for $5 million after they were sued for the semi-autonomous autopilot feature being "essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous." The money was paid out to resolve disputes over the delayed updates to the Model S and Model X autopilot features.
Experts say Tesla could be in violation of new autonomous vehicle rules.
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