5 Texas Police Sue Tesla Over AutoPilot

Tesla’s controversial AutoPilot semi-autonomous mode has had its critics, and also had some concerns. But now five Texas police officers have taken their concerns to the courts. They are suing Tesla for what they say are design and manufacturing defects with the AutoPilot system. 

Officers Dalton Fields, Rai Duenas, Kenneth Barnett, Chris Taylor, and Daniel Santiago claim they were “badly injured” from a Tesla crash this past February. They say they suffered “severe injuries and permanent disabilities.” This, after a 2019 Tesla Model X plowed into them while searching another vehicle for narcotics.

Officers were hit by the Tesla AutoPilot allegedly failing to see their flashing lights

Tesla accident
SEAL BEACH, CA – Tesla accident | Getty

The officers had just pulled over a vehicle on Eastex Freeway in Montgomery County, Texas. They had stopped it for suspicion of possession of narcotics. While dealing with the person that the police stopped a Tesla Model X crashed into two police Chevy Tahoes. This resulted in them being pushed into the officers. 

Fortunately, a constable with the Montgomery County Precinct 4 said that the officers were taken to a local hospital and then cleared. According to the spokesperson, the officers were sore and had soft-tissue injuries. None were considered seriously injured. Even the K9 dog was taken to a local veterinarian and quickly cleared. 

The driver stopped for the narcotics search was seriously injured. As for the driver of the Tesla Model X, he was uninjured but was charged with “intoxication assault.” He is not part of the lawsuit according to CarComplaints. 

The lawsuit alleges the accident was cause by the Tesla AutoPilot being engaged

Tesla accident
Tesla accident | Getty

Alleging it “plowed into the scene of the police stop.” Both of the Tahoes had their lights flashing at the time of the accident. The lawsuit says that the Tesla had its AutoPilot engaged at the time of the crash. 

“The Tesla 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,” it alleges. “The Tahoes were declared a total loss.” 

Also named as a defendant is Pappasito’s Cantina. That is the establishment the Tesla driver had been at before the crash occurred. The lawsuit alleges the Tesla driver “consumed alcohol to the point where he was obviously intoxicated. He presented a clear danger to himself and others.” This is according to the police report.

Besides this crash, the NHTSA is investigating 12 other AutoPilot incidents

Tesla accident
Tesla accident | Getty

Right now, there are at least 12 Tesla crashes being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since first opening up the investigation, the NHTSA is also looking at twelve other manufacturers with similar semi-autonomous driving software. 

There have also been other incidents where a Tesla on AutoPilot does not detect the flashing lights of law enforcement or emergency vehicles. This lawsuit concurs, saying that AutoPilot doesn’t “see” flashing lights which then failed to engage the automatic braking system. 

RELATED: Tesla Autopilot Software to Be Investigated by NHTSA