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Tesla in Autopilot mode hits parked police car

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The Tesla sedan after it struck a parked police car.
The Tesla sedan after it struck a parked police car.

A Tesla Model S yesterday crashed into an unoccupied, parked police vehicle in Laguna Beach, California, and the driver told investigators the Tesla was in Autopilot mode at the time, police said.

The driver suffered minor injuries, said Laguna Beach sergeant Jim Cota, who posted photos of the crash scene showing extensive damage to the front end of the Tesla and the rear side of the police vehicle.

Autopilot is a semi-autonomous technology that the company says is a form of advanced cruise control.

"Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn't make the car impervious to all accidents," the company said in a statement after the accident and could not immediately confirm the driver's report that the vehicle was in Autopilot mode.

Several crashes and fire incidents involving Tesla vehicles this year have been a near constant headache for chief executive Elon Musk, who boasts that his company's vehicles are among the safest in the industry.

Earlier this month, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was sending a team to investigate the crash of a Tesla vehicle in Utah. The driver was traveling at 97km per hour when the Model S smashed into a fire truck stopped at a red light, according to police.

Police in Utah said data from Tesla showed the driver enabled Autopilot about one minute and 22 seconds before the crash. The report said she took her hands off the steering wheel "within two seconds" of engaging the system and then did not touch the steering wheel for the next 80 seconds, until the crash happened.

NHTSA is also investigating a fatal crash in March that involved a Tesla Model X using Autopilot that struck a highway divider. The agency is also probing the January crash of a Tesla vehicle apparently travelling in Autopilot that struck a parked fire truck. Both of those incidents were also in California.

The National Transportation Safety Board is probing four Tesla crashes that have occurred since last year, including three under review by NHTSA.

Tesla's Model S owner's manual warns some Autopilot functions "cannot detect all objects and may not brake/decelerate for stationary vehicles or objects especially when travelling over 80kmph" and when a vehicle ahead of the driver "moves out of your driving path and a stationary vehicle or object is in front of you".

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