Tesla's Autopilot woes continue with Laguna Beach police car crash

The pressure's on for the automaker, currently facing four NTSB investigations.

June 2, 2018, 8:36 AM

In the past week, a Tesla sedan driving with Autopilot collided with a parked Laguna Beach Police Department vehicle in California, authorities confirmed, stoking concerns about the semi-autonomous system, which has been involved in several head-line grabbing incidents over the past few months.

No officers were in the police car at the time of the crash, and the Tesla's driver sustained only minor injuries, police said.

“Why do these vehicles keep doing that?” Sgt. Jim Cota mused to the Los Angeles Times.

"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," a Tesla spokesperson said when asked about the Laguna Beach incident. "Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents, and before a driver can use Autopilot, they must accept a dialogue box which states that ‘Autopilot is designed for use on highways that have a center divider and clear lane markings."

But the pressure's on for the automaker, currently facing four active investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Three of the investigations are looking into the vehicle's Autopilot function, and one is focused on a post-crash fire.

Tesla says Autopilot was not engaged immediately preceding the high-speed crash of a Tesla Model S in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., earlier this month, which resulted in an intense fire, killing two local high school seniors. Witnesses said they could see the pair still moving inside the vehicle while it burned.

First responders faced a similar challenge in March when another Tesla, this time while using its Autopilot system, crashed in Mountain View, Calif., and ignited. An investigative source told ABC News that the battery of the vehicle caught fire again a week later after the car was towed to an impound lot.

In April, the NTSB decided to remove Tesla as a party to that investigation, a rare move by the agency, citing the release of investigative information violated an agreement between the company and the agency.

"While we understand the demand for information that parties face during an NTSB investigation, said Sumwalt. "Uncoordinated releases of incomplete information do not further transportation safety or serve the public interest.”

Less than a week after the NTSB accused Tesla of being uncooperative with that federal investigation, Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk, announced plans to halt production of the Model 3 for a few days due to problems on the assembly line.

Production has since resumed and Tesla is showing "encouraging signs" of a potential increase in its production rate, according to Bloomberg.