ZEBULON, N.C. (WNCN) – The driver of a Tesla was watching a movie early Wednesday while the vehicle was on auto-pilot when it plowed into a Nash County deputy’s vehicle, the Highway Patrol said.
The collision occurred just after midnight on Highway 64 at mile marker 440, which is near the Franklin/Nash County line.
A Nash County deputy and a trooper with the Highway Patrol were on the side of the road while responding to a previous crash when the Tesla slammed into the deputy’s cruiser, the Highway Patrol said.
The impact sent the deputy’s cruiser into the trooper’s vehicle – which pushed the trooper and deputy to the ground.
The Highway Patrol said the Tesla’s driver, identified as Devainder Goli of Raleigh, said he was watching a movie on his phone while the car was on auto-pilot when the collision occurred.
“Thankfully no one was injured,” the Trooper Jeff Wilson of the Highway Patrol told CBS 17.
Goli was charged with move over law violation and location of television in vehicle.
“It was a simple lane closure and then suddenly death was at our footsteps,” said Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone.
The sheriff said the accident should serve as a wake up call.
“It shows automation is never going to take the place of the motoring public paying attention, not texting, not being on the phone, but focusing on what you were doing, that is, driving,” said Stone.
This was not the first crash involving the Tesla autopilot system.
The most recent happened last month, when an Arizona state trooper’s cruiser was hit by Tesla on autopilot, according to its driver.
Last year, consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia reported on a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which said people are confused about how driver assistance systems work.
“What they name of the system has implications for what a driver understands,” said IIHS President David Harkey.
In June 2019, the IIHS conducted a survey of more than 2,000 drivers and found a name like “autopilot” creates misconceptions.
“Almost half of the survey respondents indicated they would take their hands off the steering wheel, and almost 6 percent thought they could take a nap while the system was in autopilot,” said Harkey.
The IIHS recommended changing the names of systems like autopilot to something less likely to delude drivers into thinking cars will drive themselves.