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Fresh trouble for Musk as Tesla in Autopilot mode hits police van

In yet another indication that Tesla’s (TSLA) autonomous vehicle program is unlikely to live up to the hype, a car in autopilot mode crashed into a police vehicle on a California street. The findings of the investigators and Tesla’s response after the accident show there is a great deal of confusion over the company’s semi-automated vehicles.

In the absence of proper guidelines with regard to the role of man and machine in the maneuvering of the robo-cars, it will be a difficult task to establish accountability when accidents occur.

While the driver of the ill-fated car blamed it on the ‘Autopilot’, a statement from Tesla said, “when using Autopilot, drivers are continuously reminded of their responsibility to keep their hands on the wheel.” Now, we have a situation where no one is actually responsible for the accident, in which both the vehicles suffered extensive damage.

The company in its manuals states Autopilot is not designed to be used as an alternative to a human driver, but an autonomous driver aide that needs to be continuously monitored. According to the company, it is still perfecting the technology and once fully developed, an advanced version of Autopilot would be made available to customers.

The accident occurred when a car in autopilot mode hit a police vehicle from behind on a California street

According to the Laguna Beach police, the Tesla car rear-ended the parked police van causing minor injuries to its driver. Further damages were averted as no one was occupying the police cruiser at the time of the accident.

What the company is referring to as ‘autopilot’ is actually a feature that comes with its all-electric sedan, meant to be used as a driver’s aide for traveling on mapped routes and standard highways. The recent incidents involving Tesla vehicles reveal that the system often fails to identify stationary objects.

So, it makes sense for drivers to be fully alert while the vehicle is on Autopilot mode, considering the multiple incidents in the past wherein autonomous systems fitted on vehicles failed to comprehend complex markings on roads, causing mishaps.

Ironically, despite the many accidents involving Tesla cars, the company’s CEO Elon Musk keeps boasting that the safety features of Tesla vehicles are among the best in the world.

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