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Tesla's Autopilot blamed for a Model X crash

Engadget Engadget 6/07/2016 Jon Fingas

Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot mode is coming under fire for the second time in as many weeks. Art dealer Albert Scaglione claims that the feature was responsible for a crash that rolled his Model X on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on July 1st. According to the police report, the electric SUV smacked into a guard rail and hit the median before landing on its roof. Both Scaglione and his passenger (his son-in-law) thankfully survived.

However, Scaglione might not emerge completely unscathed. Police tell the Detroit Free Press that they'll likely cite the driver, since there isn't enough evidence to show that Autopilot was at fault. Tesla, meanwhile, outright rejects the idea that it's culpable. In a statement, the company says that it currently has "no reason to believe" that Autopilot was turned on at the time of the crash and hasn't had any success calling Scaglione since. You can read the full response below.

It's instances like these that help explain why Tesla places liability for Autopilot-related crashes on the driver. Regardless of who's telling the truth in this case, there's no doubt that it can be tempting to use Autopilot as a scapegoat when you were (or should have been) the one in control. Shifting liability theoretically discourages that -- you're on the hook even if you say that the vehicle made the mistake. With that said, it's clear from the small but mounting number of incidents that Tesla will eventually have to answer some tough questions about its responsibility in collisions.

"We received an automated alert from this vehicle on July 1 indicating airbag deployment, but logs containing detailed information on the state of the vehicle controls at the time of the collision were never received. This is consistent with damage of the severity reported in the press, which can cause the antenna to fail. As we do with all crash events, we immediately reached out to the customer to confirm they were ok and offer support but were unable to reach him. We have since attempted to contact the customer three times by phone without success. Based on the information we have now, we have no reason to believe that Autopilot had anything to do with this accident."

Detroit Free Press

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