Several Houston-area cops sue Tesla over autopilot system


(TNS) – A handful of cops in the Houston area are not happy with Tesla’s autopilot system. Five Montgomery County law enforcement officers are suing Elon Musk’s electric car company for nearly $ 20 million.

The lawsuit stems from an accident on February 27 when a drunk driver driving a 2019 Tesla Model X crashed into the back of patrol cars belonging to assistants in the Montgomery County Constable’s Office 4 and an officer from the Splendora Police Department along the Eastex Highway. Police had arrested a driver and were conducting a road search with a police dog when the wreckage occurred.

Early reports from the Montgomery County Police reporter claim the Splendora officer was searching under the stopped truck and dragged a “short distance” by the impact. The report also said that a Montgomery County MP was stuck between a police SUV and a wall bordering the bridge where the shutdown took place. The traffic stop suspect was reportedly thrown under a patrol vehicle and transferred to a medical center in Kingwood with a head injury. K-9 officer “Kodiak” is listed as “evaluated” in the report.

The ensuing lawsuit, filed by Houston attorney and former mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee, claims Tesla’s autopilot function was activated at the time of the crash. Montgomery County Police reporter Scott Engle’s Dashcam video shows the collision:

“There is no indication that (the Tesla driver) even tried to stop when he ran over the Tahoes of MPs,” Montgomery County Constable Rowdy Hayden said at the time of the crash.

The driver, identified as Michael Minh Le, was found to be intoxicated and arrested that night. On September 16, Le pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. Officers filed a lawsuit against Tesla 10 days later, records show. The lawsuit also names Pappas Restaurants as a defendant, claiming that workers at a Pappasito’s cantina over-served The earlier that night.

The group of cops claim that the proprietary autopilot system failed to detect their police SUVs, some of which were pulled over in a moving traffic lane. Video from the scene shows their lights being activated to warn drivers, but officers believe the autopilot system did not know how to interpret the red and blue strobes.

This is problematic, according to Buzbee and the complainants. Musk often touts the safety features of Tesla’s plethora of assisted driving technologies, but the automaker has found itself under federal investigation following a series of accidents involving its autonomous driving feature.

“Tesla cannot have it both ways,” reads the lawsuit. “… Tesla knows that Tesla drivers listen to these claims and believe their vehicles are equipped to drive themselves, which can result in serious injury or death.”

The lawsuit is asking for up to $ 20 million from the automaker. Tesla and Pappas Restaurants have yet to officially respond.

© 2021 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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