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Is This Another Setback For Autonomous Vehicles?

A Tesla Model S crashed into a parked police vehicle in Laguna Beach, California yesterday, becoming the latest in a string of accidents involving Tesla cars, whose drivers claim the car was in Autopilot mode when they happened. This driver is no exception: according to a Reuters report, he told the police the Autopilot was switched on when the car crashed into the back of the police vehicle.

Tesla has not confirmed or denied the deployment of the Autopilot semiautomatic driving system yet, but the company has said time and again that deploying the Autopilot does not make cars impervious to accidents, and that even when it is deployed, the driver must keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

This was not the case with another Tesla crash, in Utah, where the police investigation found the driver had enabled the Autopilot 1.22 minutes before the crash into a stationary fire truck in front of the Tesla, which was going at 60 mph. After enabling the system, she took her hands off the wheel and did not touch it again until after the accident.

Another two crashes involving Teslas have occurred since the start of the year, one with fatal consequences. In both cases the Autopilot was switched on, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, Tesla Model S has become the most expensive car to insure in the United States. The average annual insurance paid on the model is US$1,789.48 and the average annual collision coverage paid is US$1,310.40. Some insurers, Electrek recalls, last year upped their rates for Tesla owners on the grounds of higher than usual claim frequency. At the time, Tesla countered the argument by saying the high-performance Model S and Model X were compared with much less powerful cars.

In any case, that’s four accidents involving Teslas since the start of the year, and another four last year. While CEO Elon Musk likes to note that this is much less than the industry average, Tesla certainly attracts more media attention than other carmakers because of its Autopilot system and claims it is much safer than comparable vehicles.

By Irina Slav for Safehaven.com

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