Tesla Model S Involved in Rollover Crash | Edmunds

Tesla Model S Involved in Rollover Crash

A Tesla Model S sedan was involved in a rollover crash Saturday in Minnesota in which the driver originally told police that the car's Autopilot self-driving feature might have been at fault. In a statement on Monday, however, the driver changed his story and said that the Autopilot system was not to blame.

The driver and four passengers in the vehicle at the time of the crash were injured but not seriously.

An initial report by Elektrek said the driver told Kandiyohi County sheriff's deputies at the scene that Autopilot was to blame for the incident. And, according to U.S. News, the Associated Press obtained a police document Monday that confirmed the driver's statement. But the AP also reported that, in an email sent Monday afternoon to the sheriff's department, the driver "now believes that he disengaged Autopilot by stepping on the accelerator before the crash."

In the email, the driver said he was "confused" just before the crash, which occurred when he accelerated into a sharp turn. At that point, the car hit loose gravel, lost traction and rolled over into a ditch. According to AP, the driver said in the email that he wanted to clarify his statement and that he never intended to blame Tesla or the Autopilot system.

For its part, Tesla told Elektrek: "We have not yet established whether the vehicle's Autopilot feature was activated, and have no reason to believe that Autopilot, which has been found by NHTSA to reduce accident rates by 40 percent, worked other than as designed. Every time a driver engages Autopilot, they are reminded of their responsibility to remain engaged and to be prepared to take immediate action at all times, and drivers must acknowledge their responsibility to do so before Autopilot is enabled."

As previously reported by Edmunds, a Tesla Model S was involved in a fatal crash in Florida last year. Despite allegations that Autopilot was at fault in that case, an NHTSA investigation concluded that "a safety-related defect trend has not been identified at this time" because the specific details of the incident fall "outside the expected performance capabilities of the system."

Autopilot is able to maintain a set speed, brake and slow down as necessary; it is also able to keep a vehicle centered in its lane. But drivers are cautioned by the system to remain alert. If a driver removes his or her hands from the steering wheel for an extended length of time, Autopilot issues an audible and visual warning.

Since Autopilot was introduced, a number of drivers have blamed the system for sudden acceleration and erratic vehicle movements. As Elektrek points out, this was the case when a Model S crashed into a gym in Florida and again when a Model X rammed a beauty salon in California. In both those incidents, Tesla secured the data logs from the vehicles and proved that the drivers were at fault for ignoring warnings to maintain control.

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