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Moscow crash raises new questions about Tesla autopilot

Driver and passengers escape collision with parked tow truck with only minor injuries on Moscow’s ring road
Another Tesla Model 3 crashes into a truck, reportedly while on autopilot. Wire photo.

A Tesla crash in Moscow has raised more concerns that the vehicle’s Autopilot system is not flawless.

Driver Alexi Tretyakov, a Russian businessman, said his Tesla Model 3 was travelling at about 100 km/h before it crashed into a parked tow truck on Moscow’s Ring Road while “Autopilot” was active, engadget reported.

The owner said the August 10 incident occurred while he was driving at the speed limit with his hands on the wheel — it’s just that neither he nor the semi-autonomous system spotted the truck. He also reportedly applied the brakes just before the collision.

Tretyakov told local media he suffered a broken leg, while his two children escaped the car with only minor injuries, although the car’s battery pack appears to have caught fire, producing a massive explosion and fire.

In the past,Tesla CEO Elon Musk has routinely defended the car’s Autopilot system. Tesla insists that drivers be prepared to take over at any point, and that its system is still far safer overall than conventional driving. Still, the Moscow crash could spark further scrutiny.

One eyewitness in a car on the other side of the Moscow ring road — known as as the MKAD — captured the aftermath of the crash on camera, in footage that was later posted on social media, Newsweek reported.

The eyewitness is filming the other side of the ring road as they pass the crashed Tesla when the vehicle explodes, engulfing the car in flames and thick black smoke. Seconds later, another explosion occurs.

Footage shown on Russian News Channel Rossiya 24 showed that the only part of the car remaining after the fire was the metal frame.

The Moscow crash comes on the heels of other accidents involving Tesla vehicles on Autopilot crashing into stationary cars on the road, Fox Business reported.

In March, a 50-year-old man was killed when his Tesla Model 3 collided with a tractor-trailer in Florida. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the driver turned on the Autopilot 10 seconds prior to the crash and that the vehicle did not detect his hands on the steering wheel at the time of impact.

A Tesla Model X cashed into a barrier on a California highway in March 2018, resulting in the death of its driver. The NTSB said the Autopilot feature was enabled at the time the incident occurred. During the crash, the Tesla’s battery was “breached” and in the aftermath, the vehicle caught fire.

Two of the first reported deadly accidents involving the Autopilot feature occurred in 2016. In May of that year, a 40-year-old man was killed when the Model S he was driving collided with a semi-truck that was making a turn. The roof of the Tesla struck the bottom of the trailer as it passed underneath, then went off the road and hit two fences and a power pole, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

In January, a 23-year-old died when the Model S they were driving collided with a truck while traveling on a highway in China. Dashcam footage of the incident shows the Tesla appearing to continue at highway speed, without slowing or attempting a maneuver to evade the truck. The Tesla is reportedly believed to have been on Autopilot mode at the time of the accident.

“When it was approaching the road sweeper, the car didn’t put on the brake or avoid it,” a police officer said in a CCTV report. “Instead, it crashed right into it.”


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