Tesla crashes and driver claims he couldn’t disengage Autopilot, Tesla responds

A Tesla vehicle crashed into ‘several signs on the road’ in New Jersey last night and the driver claims that his Model X was on Autopilot and he couldn’t disengage the driver assist system, which would be a first.

The accident happened in Middlesex County last night when a Model X crashed off the road on route 1 near North Brunswick.

The driver was not hurt nor charged, but the vehicle reportedly “sustained extensive damage.” it was towed away as pictured above.

According to local news outlet NJ.com, the police wrote in the report:

“The vehicle could have gone straight or taken the Adams Lane exit, but instead split the difference and went down the middle, taking the vehicle off the roadway and striking several objects at the roadside,”

Here’s the Google Street view of the intersection where the accident allegedly happened based on the news report:

Tesla Autopilot crash google street view

The Model X reportedly ran into some of the signs on the side of the road before coming to a stop.

Again according to the report, the driver says that he tried to regain control of the vehicle on Autopilot without success:

“The (Tesla owner) states that he tried to regain control of the vehicle, however it would not let him,”

When Autosteer, the automatic steering feature of Autopilot, is engaged, the driver simply has to apply torque to the steering wheel or press the brake to disengage the driver assist feature.

Tesla is aware of the accident, but it hasn’t commented yet.

Update: A Tesla spokesperson sent us the following statement:

“Safety is the top priority at Tesla, and we engineer and build our cars with this in mind. We also ask our customers to exercise safe behavior when using our vehicles, including following the car’s instructions for remaining alert and present when using Autopilot and to be prepared to take control at all times. A driver can easily override Autopilot by lightly touching the steering wheel or brakes.

Moreover, the brakes have an independent bypass circuit that cuts power to the motor no matter what the Autopilot computer requests. And the steering wheel has enough leverage for a person to overpower the electric steering assist at all times.

Since we launched Autopilot in 2015, we are not aware of a single instance in which Autopilot refused to disengage.”

Last month, Tesla released its latest Autopilot safety report showing that accidents are more common on miles traveled without Autopilot.

Electrek’s Take

While we can’t know for sure without the data, this sounds like another case of blaming Autopilot for a user mistake.

Based on the news report, the accident happened on a road with traffic lights, which is not where you’d want to use Autopilot anyway.

If I’m understanding the comments correctly, it sounds like Autopilot was following the lane and the driver wanted to take the exit or vice-versa and he lost control off the road.

Autopilot is a driver assist feature and drivers should always be vigilant and ready to take control.

Now, he claims that he wasn’t able to regain control, which is different, but I’ve simply never heard of anyone not being able to disengage Autopilot.

If anything, Tesla owners are complaining more about Autopilot being too easy to disengage due to the requirement of applying torque to the wheel.

But he could have disengaged Autosteer by grabbing the wheel and still have active cruise control on, which would have kept the vehicle going forward. That said, why wouldn’t he have been pressing on the brakes if he thought the vehicle was being steered off road.

Finally, I would personally never engage Autopilot under its current version on a route with traffic lights. I get a lot of value from it on highways but it’s not currently able to properly react to traffic lights.

It’s an impressive system, but people really need to stop acting like it’s driving for you.

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