“A Nash County MP and Highway Patrol soldier were on the side of the road while responding to a previous crash when the Tesla crashed into the MP’s cruiser,” CBS 17 reports. “The impact sent the deputy cruiser in the soldier’s vehicle, which pushed the soldier and the deputy to the ground.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured by the accident.
The driver was charged with breaking state law on “moving” and having a television in the car.
It’s an important reminder that no car on the market today is fully autonomous. Drivers should be aware of the road at all times, regardless of what type of car they have or what type of driver assistance technology their car has.
Tesla could use better driver monitoring technology
In the past year, there have been at least three similar incidents involving Tesla vehicles crashing into police cars. This happened in Arizona in July and in Connecticut and Massachusetts last December.
To be fair, it’s not just a Tesla problem. Studies have shown that driver assistance systems like Autopilot – from Tesla and other automakers – are not good for stopping for stationary vehicles. A study earlier this month found that BMW, Kia and Subaru driver assistance systems did not consistently stop for vehicles stationary on a test track.
Still, Tesla clearly has room for improvement. Obviously, it would be nice if Autopilot could actually detect stopped vehicles. But Tesla could also use better driver monitoring technology.
Tesla vehicles use a steering wheel torque sensor to try to detect if a driver is paying attention. This type of sensor is easy to defeat. It’s also possible to keep your hand on the wheel without really paying attention to the road.
Tesla could learn from Cadillac, whose Super Cruise technology includes an eye-tracking camera that checks that the driver is looking at the road. An eye-tracking system like this would likely prevent incidents like Wednesday’s crash in North Carolina. If the driver had attempted to watch a movie while the autopilot was engaged, the system would have detected that he was not looking at the road, warned the driver, and ultimately deactivated.