Video: Tesla driver plowed into police car despite 150 warnings from Autopilot

Video: Tesla driver plowed into police car despite 150 warnings from Autopilot

Five police officers are suing Tesla after being injured by a Model X that plowed into them while they were conducting a routine traffic stop. The incident took place on February 27, 2021, when an allegedly impaired driver over-relied on the Model X's "Autopilot" system, which reportedly gave off 150 warnings to take control of the vehicle in a 34-minute time span.

According to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal, which obtained video (below) from the car, the 2019 Model X struck a police vehicle at 54 mph as it was stopped in a lane of travel with emergency lights flashing on a highway in Montgomery County, Texas. In addition to the five officers injured, the driver pulled over for the traffic stop was hospitalized as well.

The Autopilot system in the 2019 Model X is programmed to take over many driving tasks. The driver is expected to stay alert and keep hands on the steering wheel, ready to take over. The system checks whether the driver's hands are indeed where they should be by looking for subtle torque forces acting on the steering wheel.


If no torque is detected, the system warns the driver. Autopilot operation continues if torque is detected (e.g., the driver puts their hands back on the wheel). However, if after a few seconds no torque is detected, the Autopilot system is supposed to exit and expect the driver to take full control of the car.

Police say the Tesla driver was intoxicated. For all of the 150 warnings, the driver was able to apply just enough torque to the steering wheel for Autopilot to continue. At the time of the 150th warning, the driver heeds the command and touches the steering wheel. At this point, onboard cameras from the Tesla show the flashing lights and police vehicles stopped along the highway. They should have been visible to the driver as well, but the cameras show the Tesla does not deviate from its path of travel.

By the time the Autopilot system sees the police car directly in front of the Tesla there's only 2.5 seconds and 37 yards to react. According to the WSJ, Autopilot first tries to stop the Model X. It then disengages with the expectation an alert driver will take over.