Tesla CEO Elon Musk versus the deputy's patrol vehicle damaged by the Tesla on Autopilot
Snohomish County Sheriff's Office / FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
  • Five Texas cops are suing Tesla after a Model X reportedly on Autopilot slammed into the policemen.
  • The suit alleges Tesla falsely advertised that its Autopilot software is safer than a human driver.
  • The NHTSA is investigating the Autopilot feature after it was involved in 11 crashes with emergency vehicles.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Five Texas cops are suing Tesla after a car that was reportedly on Autopilot injured the policemen during a traffic stop.

The policemen are filing the lawsuit seven months after the accident occurred on February 27 in Splendora, a suburb in Houston, Texas. At the time, the officers had pulled over another car into the right-hand lane of the expressway and were in the process of conducting a drug search with a canine when the Model X slammed into the two police cars at 112 kilometres per hour. The Tesla pushed the cars into the officers and the driver that had been pulled over, the lawsuit said. The court document did not detail the nature of the injuries.

The suit alleges that Tesla has falsely advertised that its Autopilot software can execute driving functions better than a human. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

"You've probably seen that Elon Musk and Tesla have proudly touted Teslas on autopilot are safer than your everyday driver, that Tesla's on autopilot there are fewer accidents than they are otherwise," attorney Tony Buzbee said in an interview with local channel KPRC 2. "But what we've learned is that this information is misleading."

The lawsuit alleges that Tesla's Autopilot mode was "completely unable to detect the existence of at least four vehicles, six people and a German Shepherd fully stopped in the lane of traffic" because it does not recognise cars and pedestrians when lights are flashing. The suit said Tesla has not fixed the issue, despite multiple crashes with first responders.

Tesla's Autopilot - which enables the cars to steer, accelerate, and brake within the lane - has been under increased scrutiny in recent months. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating Tesla's driver-assist Autopilot feature after it identified over 11 crashes since 2018 in which a Tesla in Autopilot or "Traffic Aware Cruise Control" mode has struck vehicles at first-responder scenes. The majority of the accidents have taken place at night and have included emergency vehicles with flashing lights, flares, and traffic cones.

"The officers want to hold Tesla accountable, and force Tesla to publicly acknowledge and immediately correct the known defects inherent in its Autopilot and collision avoidance systems, particularly as those impact the ongoing safety of our nation's first responders," the lawsuit said.

The policemen are seeking damages for multiple injuries and permanent disabilities in a range of $1 million (around R15 million) to as much as $20 million (around R301 million). The officers are also suing Pappas Restaurants for allegedly overserving alcohol to the Tesla driver before the accident. Police reports from February show the driver was taken into custody due to suspicions the individual was driving under the influence.

Pappas Restaurant did not respond to a request for comment from Insider, but told local news that the restaurant will be conducting an investigation into the allegations.

Earlier this month, Tesla's Autopilot mode was involved with another suspected DUI case as police trailed a Tesla in California that was driving on Autopilot while its driver was reportedly passed out behind the wheel. At the time, news channels noted the Autopilot feature likely saved the driver's life.

Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.


Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.