HARTFORD, Conn. — A Tesla in auto-pilot mode collided with a Connecticut state police cruiser early Saturday morning as the trooper was assisting a disabled motor vehicle in the center lane of Interstate 95.
According to police, a pair of troopers responded to a disabled vehicle in the left center lane of northbound I-95 near exit 15 in Norwalk. Police said both troopers were behind the disabled vehicle with their emergency lights activated and a flare pattern behind the cruisers. While troopers awaited a tow truck, a 2018 Tesla Model 3 struck the rear of one cruiser and then continued north, striking the disabled motor vehicle.
Police said the operator of the Tesla continued to slowly travel northbound before being stopped several hundred feet away by the second trooper on scene. Police said the operator of the Tesla stated that he had his vehicle on auto-pilot and explained that he was checking on his dog, which was in the back seat prior to hitting the vehicles.
Tara Andringa, executive director of Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, said most vehicles available for sale today offer driver assistance features, but even the “most advanced of these aids, the driver must always monitor and be prepared to control the vehicle.” PAVE is a coalition of industry leaders, academic and public sector institutions with the goal of raising understanding and awareness of the technology.
She said it is “damaging to public discussion” about advanced vehicle technologies to refer to vehicles now available for sale to the public using terms such as automated, self-driving, autonomous, on autopilot or driverless.
“It is incorrect to refer to current vehicles with driver assist technologies as ‘self-driving’ or ‘autonomous’ … because creating an inaccurate impression of vehicle capabilities can put drivers and other road users at risk,” she said.
The operator, who was not identified, was issued a misdemeanor summons for reckless driving and reckless endangerment.
“Fortunately, no one involved was seriously injured, but it is apparent that this incident could have been more severe,” state police noted in their release. “Regardless of your vehicles capabilities, when operating a vehicle your full attention is required at all times to ensure safe driving.”
Police said according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although a number of vehicles have some automated capabilities, there are no vehicles currently for sale that are fully automated or self-driving.