A Tesla owner is blaming the car’s autopilot feature for “suddenly accelerated” and flipping his vehicle, injuring him and four others.
The crash occurred west of the Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota when David Clark engaged the semi-autonomous driving feature in his Tesla electric car on a country road.
According to the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s office, Mr Clark’s Tesla was found overturned in a marsh but the injuries were “minor”.
The “cruise control” option in Teslas use cameras, radars, and an on-board computers to detect lanes, other vehicles, and objects in the road, steering as needed.
Tesla said in a statement following the accident that it has “no reason to believe [the autopilot feature] worked other than as designed.”
The company has not yet responded to the request for information on if drivers and purchasers of Tesla vehicles receive some sort of training to use the feature. The Washington Post has reported that Tesla does require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel even while the feature is engaged, however.
This is the second time the Palo Alto, California-based company’s autopilot feature has resulted in an accident.
In Gainsville, Florida in May 2016, a driver was killed when his Tesla, going 70 miles per hour, crashed into a semitrailer truck. It was the first known crash of a partly autonomous vehicle.
After the incident, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a full report on the crash and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) decided not to issue a recall of that model of Tesla cars, finding no safety defect.
Though there was a subsequent debate about the safety of such a feature, it was reported that the driver ignored six audio and seven visual warnings issued by the car’s system to keep his hands on the steering wheel.
Tesla has also implemented an automatic “off” feature for autopilot. If drivers continuously ignore safety warnings now, the car will disable autopilot until the next time the car is started.
Mr Clark nor the police have confirmed whether he got any warnings from his Tesla prior to the accident.
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, recently said at the National Governor’s Association semi-annual meeting that “Probably in 10 years, more than a half of new vehicle production is electric in the US…I think almost all cars produced will be autonomous.”
“There will not be a steering wheel in 20 years…it will be like having a horse” Mr Musk said.
For the time being, a Tesla owner in California filed a federal lawsuit against Tesla for the same “sudden acceleration” problem. His SUV was parked in his garage when it unexpectedly crashed into his living room, injuring him and destroying walls.
A request for class-action status has been filed as well in an attempt to add seven other Tesla drivers with complaints in other states that were listed in the NHTSA database.