Tesla driver in multi-car crash told police self-driving software malfunctioned

A Tesla logo on a Model S is photographed inside of a Tesla dealership in New York, US on April 29, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters file

WASHINGTON — The driver of a 2021 Tesla Model S involved in an eight-vehicle crash last month on San Francisco's Bay Bridge told police he was in Full-Self Driving (FSD) mode which had malfunctioned, according to a police report made public Wednesday (Dec 21).

The Thanksgiving Day crash on Interstate-80 near Treasure Island resulted in two juveniles being transported to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries and led to lengthy delays on the bridge.

Chief Executive Elon Musk has touted Tesla "Full Self-Driving" software as a potential cash cow for the world's biggest electric carmaker. But Tesla's advanced driver assistance systems — and Musk's claims about them — face growing legal, regulatory and public scrutiny.

Tesla sells the US$15,000 (S$20,000) FSD software as an ad-on which enables its vehicles to change lanes and park autonomously. That complements its standard "Autopilot" feature, which enables cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes without driver intervention.

The Tesla driver told police the FSD malfunctioned but police were unable to determine if the software was in operation or if his statement was accurate, according to the report which was made public after a Reuters request.

The police report said the vehicle made an unsafe lane change and was slowing to a stop, which led to another vehicle hitting the Tesla and a chain reaction of additional crashes.

The police report said if FSD malfunctioned, the driver should have manually taken control of the vehicle.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has been investigating the automaker's advanced driver assistance systems, did not comment.

Tesla's says "Full Self-Driving" gives access to more advanced driver assistance features but emphasises "all Tesla vehicles require active driver supervision and are not autonomous."

National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy has questioned Tesla's marketing the feature as "full self-driving," when it is incapable of that and said Tesla must do more to ensure people do not misuse the feature.

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