Cops' Suit: Tesla on Autopilot Slammed Into Us

5 police officers were injured in February by Model X during Texas traffic stop
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2021 9:05 AM CDT
Cops' Suit: Tesla on Autopilot Slammed Into Us
This Feb. 9, 2019, file photo shows a sign bearing the company logo outside a Tesla store in Denver.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Tesla calls its Autopilot feature the "future of driving," but it's a future that at least five Texas cops aren't keen on, unless Tesla remedies "known defects." KPRC 2 reports that those five police officers have now filed suit against the automaker, after they say a Tesla Model X in Autopilot mode crashed into them in February while they were dealing with a traffic stop in Splendora. The complaint notes all five cops were badly hurt, and that the accident was due to "the design and manufacturing defects known to Tesla, Tesla's failure to adequately warn of those defects, and Tesla's unwillingness to admit or correct such defects."

Specifically, the Autopilot feature and the carmaker's collision avoidance system "failed to detect the officers' cars" and warn of the hazard. In their suit, the officers note there've been at least a dozen other such crashes involving Teslas in Autopilot mode and first responders at active scenes with clearly visible flashing lights on their vehicles—yet those lights seem to somehow render the police cars invisible to Teslas, says Tony Buzbee, an attorney representing the officers.

Also named in the complaint: Pappas Restaurants, with the officers alleging that the Tesla's driver in the February incident was overserved alcohol at a Pappasito's Cantina. The suit cites a police report that indicated the driver was arrested after the accident on suspicion of intoxication assault. The Verge notes this case is Tesla's "latest legal headache," with additional accidents tied to the Autopilot feature (i.e., other than those linked to first responders) also making headlines.

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The outlet points out that the lawsuit comes right on the heels of Tesla offering access to the beta version of its Full Self-Driving feature, which is basically a more advanced version of Autopilot. The officers—four Montgomery County constables and one Splendora cop, per Houston Public Media—"want to hold Tesla accountable, and force Tesla to publicly acknowledge and immediately correct the known defects," per the suit. The officers are seeking compensation for their injuries, which they say include permanent disabilities, with more than $1 million in damages listed, set at a maximum of $20 million. (More Tesla stories.)

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