A Tesla on Autopilot rear-ended a parked police car, renewing safety concerns

By William Feuer

  • A Tesla Model 3 was engaged in Autopilot when it rear-ended a parked police car in Connecticut over the weekend.
  • Even though the company's vehicle user manuals caution drivers to remain attentive while driving, Tesla CEO Elon Musk sometimes retweets videos portraying hands-free use of Autopilot.
  • Tesla's Autopilot was known to be engaged during three fatal crashes in the U.S., including a 2018 Model 3 crash in Delray Beach, Florida.

A Tesla Model 3 was engaged in Autopilot when it rear-ended a parked police car in Connecticut over the weekend, the Stamford Advocate first reported Saturday.

The driver told police that he was checking on his dog in the backseat when his Tesla Model 3 rear-ended a cruiser, then continued to also strike a disabled car.

A Tesla spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

Autopilot enables Tesla vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within their lanes, and move into different lanes. However, Tesla says the system still requires "active driver supervision," according to the company's website. Incidents such as this one renew concerns that Tesla is not serious about enforcing safe use of the feature.

The collision occurred early Saturday morning, police said in a Facebook post, after a state trooper stopped on I-95 in the city of Norwalk to assist a disabled vehicle that was occupying the left center lane. As the officers waited with the driver of the disabled vehicle for a tow truck, the 2018 Tesla Model 3 with a license plate that read "MODEL3" struck the cars.

The driver was issued a misdemeanor summons for reckless driving and reckless endangerment, police said. No one was injured in the incident, though photos posted by police on Facebook show substantial damage done to the Tesla and the police car.

The incident has revived concerns about the safety of Tesla's autopilot feature, which drivers have been documented misusing in the past. Even though the company's vehicle user manuals caution drivers to remain attentive while driving and keep their hands on the steering wheel, Tesla CEO Elon Musk sometimes retweets videos portraying hands-free use of Autopilot. Some drivers have posted videos that appear to show the driver asleep at the wheel while Autopilot is employed.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal took to Twitter after the incident to call for regulation of Tesla's Autopilot feature.

Tesla's Autopilot has been involved in crashes before. The feature was known to be engaged during three fatal crashes in the U.S., including a 2018 Model 3 crash in Delray Beach, Florida. The National Transportation Safety Board, a federal safety authority, is investigating whether or not and how much Autopilot may have contributed to that Model 3 crash.