TSLA Tumbles: Autopilot Blamed After Tesla "Accelerates", Rolls Over Into Minnesota Marsh

One reason why Tesla may be trading over 3% lower this morning is a report in the Star Tribune, according to which a Twin Cities man whose Tesla overturned in a central Minnesota marsh, is blaming the crash on the car’s “autopilot”, according to authorities. David Clark, 58, of Eden Prairie, said he was driving Saturday evening before sunset on a country road 18 miles northeast of Willmar, when the car “suddenly accelerated” and overturned in the marsh, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Sunday.

The crash occurred after “Clark ... engaged the autopilot feature,” sending the car off eastbound 172nd Avenue NE. and rolling into the marsh, the Sheriff’s Office statement continued.  

Deputies found the 2016 Tesla upside-down. It was not immediately clear what Tesla model it was.

He told police: 'When he engaged the auto pilot (sic) feature, that the vehicle suddenly accelerated causing the car to leave the roadway and overturn.

Clark had put the electric car into its autopilot feature, and was approaching
the intersection of 141st Street and 172nd Avenue in Irving Township

Clark and four adults in the vehicle were slightly hurt.

Alleged malfunctions have plagued Tesla's autopilot in the past, most notably in May 2016, when a motorist near Gainesville, Florida, was killed when his Tesla collided with a semitrailer truck while in the self-driving mode. The crash brought intense scrutiny on the technology and whether the car’s manufacturer overstated the capability of the autopilot feature. A review by Federal investigators of the crash concluded there was no safety defect involved in the crash, and chose not to impose a recall. At the same time, regulators in January warned the vehicle’s operators to not treat the semiautonomous cars as if they are fully self-driving.

Other recent cases include the moment a Tesla Model S crashed into a highway barrier in Dallas in March, when its autopilot failed to spot the merging of traffic lanes and when a Model X crashed into a beauty salon in California.  In most cases, Tesla was able to pull the data logs from the car and found that the driver was actually to blame for ignoring alerts or not keeping their hands on the steering wheel.

A Tesla spokesperson told Jalopnik they have launched an investigation into the incident.

We are glad the driver and passengers are safe. We are working to establish the facts of the incident and have offered our full cooperation to the local authorities. We have not yet established whether the vehicle’s Autopilot feature was activated, and have no reason to believe that Autopilot, which has been found by NHTSA to reduce accident rates by 40 percent, worked other than as designed.


Every time a driver engages Autopilot, they are reminded of their responsibility to remain engaged and to be prepared to take immediate action at all times, and drivers must acknowledge their responsibility to do so before Autopilot is enabled. ?

Tesla has an impressive safety record and have scored high on rollover safety tests due to the vehicle's low center of gravity, weight and they also have a strong roof structure.Tesla's autopilot mode is not intended to be fully automated driving and the driver is required to keep hold of the steering wheel and stay alert at all times, according to the company's website. If they take their hands off the wheel, the driver receives a number of prompts and alerts to remind them to keep hold. Tesla's website also states that drivers must take command of their cars after exiting highways.

'When you reach your exit, your Tesla will depart the freeway, slow down and transition control back to you,' the website said.

It’s unclear whether a police investigation or Tesla’s data will be able to reveal more information about the incident. For now, however, shareholders are not taking any chances.