Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have joined the accident inquiry involving a Tesla sedan being driven in autopilot mode that careened off Laguna Canyon Road to broadside a parked police vehicle earlier this week.
The motorist in the 2015 Tesla Model S escaped with minor injuries and told investigators he was looking at the hillside in “driver assist” mode when the vehicle veered off the roadway about 11:07 a.m. near the dog park, Sgt. Jim Cota said. The unoccupied police SUV was totaled.
A similar accident occurred on the same stretch of roadway in April 2017 when a Tesla in autonomous mode rammed a semi-truck, Cota said.
The driver, in his 60s and from Laguna Niguel, will be placed at fault in the collision, but not cited, though the collision remains under investigation, said Cota, adding that local investigators are working with the NTSB.
NTSB investigators typically analyze aviation, rail, pipeline, and marine accidents, but have led other inquiries involving similar incidents tied to the electric car’s automation system, which handles some driving tasks.
Earlier, in March, a Tesla Model X crashed into a concrete median near Mountain View, Calif., killing driver Walter Huang, and sparking an NTSB inquiry. And last fall, the agency determined that a truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way and a car driver’s inattention due to overreliance on vehicle automation are the probable cause of a fatality crash in May 2016 near Williston, Fla.
The Tesla website says its vehicles equipped with autopilot hardware are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident. The site cites U.S. accident statistics for all automakers, where one automotive fatality occurs every 86 million miles, compared to 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Tesla Autopilot hardware.