A Tesla Model S crashed into a van while on Autopilot on the highway in Switzerland, and the driver caught the incident on video.
Chris Thomann was driving his Model S with Tesla’s Adaptive Cruise Control (TACC) engaged. As you can see in the GIF below (Thomann set his YouTube video to private), the Model S seems to have recognized the car leaving the lane ahead, but did not spot the stopped van.
The result was the Model S actually accelerating slightly into the van. According to Thomann, none of the safety systems worked properly.
“1. The TACC, active cruise control did not brake as it normally does
2. The collision avoidance system (AEB) did not make an emergency brake
3. The forward collision warning turned on way too late, it was set to normal warning distance
4. The TACC actually was speeding up just before I did hit the brakes”
“Yes, I could have reacted sooner, but when the car slows down correctly 1,000 times, you trust it to do it the next time to,” Thomann wrote in the YouTube video description. “My bad.”
Thomann contacted Tesla Europe, but he claimed the company simply said that “all systems worked as expected.” The TACC and Autopilot use a camera and a series of sensors to monitor surrounding traffic and dynamically adjust speed, even coming to a complete stop.
Thomann said the whole front of the car needs to be replaced, including a parking sensor and a steel beam. Thomann blames the car for both not spotting the van and for the automatic braking system failing to trigger. However, as YouTube commenter shaimach points out, the Model S manual calls out this exact situation as something drivers need to be aware of.
“Warning: Traffic-aware cruise control may not brake/decelerate for stationary vehicles, especially in situations when you are driving over 50 mph (80 km/h) and a vehicle you are following moves out of your driving path and a stationary vehicle or object is in front of you instead. Always pay attention to the road ahead and stay prepared to take immediate corrective action. Depending on TrafficAware Cruise Control to avoid a collision can result in serious injury or death.”
Marc Merlin had a similar experience a few months ago when his Model S on Autopilot also didn’t see a stopped car at a red light. Merlin, however, was able to hit the brakes in time after “deciding that the [Tesla Model S] was not going to brake in time.” Watch the video below too see Merlin avoid an accident.
Tesla Autopilot is a semi-autonomous driving system that can automatically steer and change lanes on highways, but, as witnessed by Thomann, still sometimes requires a human to take control. To be fair, Autopilot has helped some drivers avoid accidents, too. An Uber driver in Seattle recorded the moment his Tesla Model S on Autopilot slowed down to avoid a head-on collision. The driver, Jon Hall, was on State Route 99 just north of downtown Seattle when an oncoming car attempted to make a left turn directly in front of him.
And a Tesla driver in Moscow posted the following video of a taxi unexpectedly cutting them off. As you’ll see, Tesla’s Autopilot senses the oncoming taxi and moves to the side to allow room. A job well done.
Tesla has repeatedly mentioned that customer education about what Autopilot can and can’t do is critical to safe driving.
“Tesla Autopilot is designed to provide a hands-on experience to give drivers more confidence behind the wheel, increase their safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable,” a Tesla spokesperson said.”Autopilot is by far the most advanced such system on the road, but it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle and does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility. Since the release of Autopilot, we’ve continuously educated customers on the use of the feature, reminding them that they’re responsible for remaining alert and present when using Autopilot and must be prepared to take control at all times.”