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Tesla on 'autopilot' crashes into deputy's vehicle in Washington state

There were no injuries, but there was significant damage to the patrol vehicle, the sheriff's office said.
Image: Snohomish County Sheriff's Office vehicle
A damaged Snohomish County, Washington, sheriff's office vehicle after a Tesla allegedly on "Autopilot" struck it as it was parked on Saturday, May 15, 2021.Facebook/Snohomish County Sheriff's Office

A Tesla vehicle on "autopilot" crashed into a parked Washington state deputy's patrol vehicle Saturday.

There were no injuries, but there was "significant damage" to the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office vehicle, the department said in a statement.

Autopilot is a Tesla system designed to assist drivers but is not fully autonomous. The driver of the Tesla said he assumed the car would move over on its own, the state patrol said.

The crash happened around 6:40 p.m. in Snohomish County, north of Seattle, and involved a 2015 Tesla Model S, according to the Washington State Patrol, which investigated the crash.

The deputy was responding to a crashed vehicle and was parked on the shoulder with emergency lights on when the Tesla hit it, the sheriff's office said.

"This is a great reminder that vehicles may have autopilot to assist, but it cannot be relied upon to get you safely from one destination to the next," the sheriff's office said in a statement on Facebook.

The driver was issued a ticket.

An email to Tesla seeking comment was not immediately returned Monday night. The company says on its website that current Autopilot features "require active driver supervision" and are intended only for fully attentive drivers with their hands on the wheel ready to take over at any time.

There have been several crashes in which Autopilot was involved, including a fatal wreck in Mountain View, California, in 2018 in which a Tesla Model X struck a concrete barrier.

The National Transportation Safety Board in March 2020 blamed limitations of the Autopilot system — as well as the 38-year-old driver playing a phone video game and inattentiveness.

In 2019, a 50-year-old Tesla driver died after his Model 3 struck a tractor-trailer in Delray Beach, Florida, while was using Autopilot. The NTSB found that the system was a contributing factor in the crash.