TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Tesla driving on autopilot on National Highway 1 barely missed a pedestrian and collided into an overturned truck on Monday (June 1).
At 6:35 a.m. on Monday (June 1), a delivery truck overturned at the 268.3-kilometer mark, and its 34-year-old driver, surnamed Yeh (葉), stepped out onto the highway near the median to wait for a salvage vehicle. At 6:44 a.m., a white Tesla sedan suddenly roared down the road completely ignoring the driver, who had to leap out of the way to avoid being struck, reported UDN.
The driver of the Tesla then apparently noticed the delivery truck directly ahead and finally slammed on the brakes. However, it was too late, and the electric vehicle plowed halfway into the cargo area of the truck.
Traffic camera footage showing puff of smoke as car applies brakes. (NHPB image)
The National Highway Police Bureau (NHPB) said the driver of the Tesla was a 53-year-old man surnamed Huang (黃), who claimed that he had set the car to run on autopilot at a speed of 110 kilometers per hour prior to the accident. He said he had thought that under autopilot mode, the car would detect any obstacles and slow down or stop, but it continued to maintain a steady speed.
He said that once he realized the car was not going react to the truck, he stepped on the brakes at the last second. Unfortunately, by the time he applied the brakes, there was not enough room to fully decelerate or avoid the vehicle.
Yeh confessed to the NHPB that he had been trailing a car very closely and that when it suddenly decelerated, he said he did not have enough time to apply the brakes. To avoid smashing into the car, he swerved, causing the truck to roll over.
Huang said that he had placed a sign 100 meters behind the vehicle to warn motorists of the overturned truck. He said that most vehicles decelerated and switched lanes, so he was shocked when the Tesla continued to hurtle forward.
In traffic camera footage of the accident, the white Tesla can be seen making a beeline for the truck driver as he stands in the inside lane. As it becomes clear that the Tesla will not stop or even decelerate, the driver jumps out of the way.
A light puff of smoke can be seen as the car applies the brakes to some extent, but its speed does not diminish much and it crashes into the truck. One Tesla owner surnamed Chen (陳), speculated that based on the footage, the car's sensors apparently could not detect the odd shape of the overturned truck, and the braking system only kicked in at the last moment, thus causing the accident, according to the report.
Front of car covered in sauce carried by truck. (NHPB photo)
Fortunately, Huang was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident and did not suffer any serious injures, and Yeh also came away from both accidents unscathed. Police say that both men submitted to breathalyzer tests and that neither had alcohol in their systems, reported CNA.
China Times cited a car expert as saying that Tesla's "automatic brake function" is actually only for "moving vehicles." If it encounters a stationary object, the function will only provide a prompt and will not stop automatically.
Other Tesla car owners suggested a couple of other possible causes for this accident: The Tesla's sensors did not detect the truck because it is painted white, or perhaps the reflection of the sun makes it difficult to scan.
Police are still investigating the exact cause of the accident.
On its website, Tesla explains that although the autopilot has steering and braking capabilities, it does not make the vehicle autonomous and is only meant to be used when the driver is "fully attentive" and prepared to take the wheel at any time.
"Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment. While these features are designed to become more capable over time, the currently enabled features do not make the vehicle autonomous."