Tesla Drops On Report Of Another "Autopilot" Crash And Rollover

Last week, Tesla stock tumbled after it was belatedly revealed that a driver had been killed while his 2015 Model S, which had been in self-driving mode, failed to notice a turning truck and crashed into it head on, killing the driver (who may have been watching a Harry Potter DVD at the time). This led to bizarre developments: Fortune Magazine published a story in which it reported that on May 18, eleven days after Brown died, Tesla and CEO Elon Musk, in combination (roughly three parts Tesla, one part Musk), sold more than $2 billion of Tesla stock in a public offering at a price of $215 per share without ever having released a word about the crash.

This promptly led to a mini meltdown on Twitter by none other than Elon Musk, who far from coming off as a visionary geneius, instead quickly devolved into a pennystock hustler, for whom the "market response" is all that matters:

Today during the afterhours session, TSLA is once again dipping lower on a report in the Detroit Free Press that a local art gallery owner told police his 2016 Tesla Model X was in Autopilot mode when it crashed and rolled over on the Pennsylvania Turnpike last week.

The crash came just one day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report on a fatal crash in May involving a Tesla that was in self-driving mode.

The good news: both Albert Scaglione and his artist son-in-law, Tim Yanke,  survived Thursday's crash near the Bedford exit, about 107 miles east of Pittsburgh.

The bad news: this is yet another example of a Tesla crashing in "self-driving" mode.

According to the DFP, Dale Vukovich of the Pennslvania State Police, who responded to the crash, said Scaglione told him that he had activated the Autopilot feature. In his crash report Vukovich stated that Scaglione's car was traveling east, near mile marker 160, about 5 p.m. when it hit a guard rail "off the right side of the roadway. It than crossed over the eastbound lanes and hit the concrete median."

After that the Tesla Model X rolled onto its roof and came to rest in the middle east bound lane. A 2013 Infiniti G37 driven in the westbound lane by Thomas Hess of West Chester, Pa., was struck by debris from the Scaglione car, but neither he nor his passenger were hurt.

Vukovich said he likely will cite Scaglione after he completes his investigation, but he declined to specify the charge. To be sure there is always the possibility that the driver is scapegoating the car for a human error, which can be quickly confirmed or denied.

As the DFP also notes, there's not enough evidence to indicate that Tesla's Autopilot malfunctioned, although the investigation is surely just starting, as is far greater focus on TSLA's autopilot feature including its alleged safety.

Last Wednesday, the NHTSA announced it is investigating the design and performance of the Autopilot system after the abovementioned death of Joshua Brown, 40, who died in May 7 in Florida when his 2015 Tesla Model S hit a semi-truck while in self-driving mode, The federal agency said both the driver and the Autopilot system failed to detect the large tractor-trailer making a left turn in front of him,

But the driver of the truck said there was a Harry Potter video still running when the Tesla came to a stop about a quarter-mile from the impact.

Tesla says that before Autopilot can be used, drivers have to acknowledge that the system is an "assist feature" that requires a driver to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. Drivers are told they need to "maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle" while using the system, and they have to be prepared to take over at any time.

Later this month, NHTSA, which is authorized to set the safety rules for increasingly autonomous vehicles, will issue guidelines intended to set the near-term rules of the road in autonomous vehicle research.