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'Automatic' car hits parked cruiser in California

A Tesla vehicle, equipped with an automatic pilot, was recently involved in an accident with a parked police car in California.

The driver of the Tesla only suffered light injuries. The police car and the Tesla weren't quite so fortunate. Both had significant damage.

The autopilot feature that Tesla pioneered has been hailed as innovative by tech experts, a life-saving device by safety experts and a potential nightmare by those in the legal profession. The autopilot feature opens up a host of questions about who could eventually be held responsible for accidents -- especially as the technology develops. It's widely considered to still be in its infancy right now.

Currently, the autopilot feature on a Tesla isn't meant to totally replace human control -- it obviously can't prevent all accidents. It's generally designed to supplement a human driver's skill and can make split-second moves faster than a human or detect dangers that a human might not be able to see.

Several of the cars have already had accidents -- much to the chagrin of its makers. In Utah, a Tesla on autopilot crashed into a fire engine that was sitting at a stoplight. In California, a Tesla on autopilot hit a parked fire truck and another hit the divider on a highway. There are several other accidents still under investigation from the previous year.

In at least two cases, the drivers either admitted that they let go of the wheel while the car was on autopilot or the data from the vehicle shows that information. This is despite the fact that Tesla warns its drivers that the autopilot isn't able to properly detect nor brake for stationary objects when moving quickly. Drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes firmly on the road even when the autopilot is engaged.

Right now, it seems clear that human drivers aren't following clear directions -- although it remains to be seen if mechanical or design errors will also be blamed. If so, that could open up a whole new avenue of legal claims due to car accident injuries against the designer of a car's automatic functions or the car's manufacturer.

Source: reuters.com, "Tesla hits parked California police vehicle; driver blames 'Autopilot'," David Shepardson, May 29, 2018

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