The driver of a Model 3 learned the limits of Tesla's Autopilot system after slamming into two parked cars in Connecticut. He told law enforcement officers he was checking on his dog on the rear bench.
Posting on its official Facebook page, the Connecticut State Police said the accident happened early Saturday. It sent two patrol cars to secure a broken-down vehicle parked in the left lane of I-95. They had their emergency lights on, and the troopers lit an additional flare behind them, so they should have been visible from several hundred yards away. As the troopers waited for a tow truck, a white Model 3 drove directly into one of their cars, crashed into the vehicle waiting for a tow, and kept moving slowly for several hundred feet before finally coming to a stop.
No one was seriously injured, but the outcome could have been a lot worse than three totaled cars. The driver was issued a misdemeanor summons for reckless driving and reckless endangerment after admitting he turned Autopilot on to see what his dog was up to. Investigators haven't revealed whether the Model's 3 brakes were applied prior to the collision, either by the driver or the car. This was only the latest in a string of accidents involving Teslas on Autopilot hitting emergency vehicles or other stationary vehicles or objects on the side of the road.
The CSP issued a familiar but important warning. Citing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it reminded motorists that "although a number of vehicles have some automated capabilities, there are no vehicles currently on sale that are fully automated or self-driving." That's not about to change in the immediate future, either.
Tesla hasn't commented on the accident. In the past, when owners and/or investigators have blamed a crash on its technology, it has pointed out Autopilot isn't an autopilot and it doesn't make its cars autonomous. The driver remains fully responsible for keeping hands on the steering wheel, and eyes on the road, and its cars aren't taught to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles.