Tesla sedan hits fire truck during self-driving test in Los Angeles

Posted January 25, 2018

That fact became painfully clear to one intoxicated California driver, who apparently believed that using his Tesla's "autopilot" feature should have prevented him from crashing into a parked Culver City fire truck. Model S sedan that rear-ended a firetruck on a freeway near Los Angeles on Monday, the agency said.

A Tesla spokesperson told the Chronicle that the car's autopilot is meant to be used "only with a fully functioning driver". The Culver City Firefighters Twitter account tweeted out photos of the crash, stating "Amazingly there were no injuries".

While Tesla cars come with technology to enhance its "autopilot" system-a mix of cameras and radar-they aren't autonomous vehicles. The company claims it's tried to educate drivers on how to safely operate the system, but critics have pointed out that many owners still don't understand how truly limited Autopilot really is.

Autopilot requires a driver to periodically touch the steering wheel to prove they are paying attention. But that reliance was the result of Autopilot's design, which allowed for the driver to actually disengage from "the driving task" for prolonged periods of time, the board said. The driver said the Tesla had been set on autopilot. Quite a few other drivers have lodged complaints regarding this model of vehicle undergoing an accident while on Autopilot Mode. Other automakers, including Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and BMW, have designed identical systems that helps reduce and increase speed of the vehicle automatically to stay with the flow of traffic and also assists the driver to keep the auto in its lane on the highway.

For now, Tesla's software is still in what's classified by the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) as a "Level 2 automated system". KRON, the Bay Area News Network, reports that police say the suspect's blood alcohol content (BAC) was over twice the legal limit, presumably based upon their measurement of that BAC. The takeaway here is that the driver of the Tesla was clearly inattentive during the accident. In 2016, for instance, a Tesla driver operating in autopilot mode was killed when his Model S drove underneath a tractor-trailer.

The company has emphasized that "Autopilot is not a fully self-driving technology and drivers need to remain attentive at all times".