Driver Of Tesla May Have Been Impaired In Crash With DPS Trooper And Ambulance

Tesla sedan crashed into the rear of a fully-marked Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) patrol vehicle. [Photo courtesy Arizona Department of Public Safety]

A 23-year-old man whose Tesla sedan crashed into the rear of a fully-marked Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) patrol vehicle on Tuesday morning near Benson told troopers he believed his car’s autopilot was engaged at the time of the collision.

A DPS photo of the accident scene on eastbound Interstate 10 shows the electric-powered Tesla S with extensive frontend damage after it collided with the SUV-style patrol vehicle. The force of the impact lifted the rear wheels of the DPS vehicle off the ground, pushing it forward several feet into the left rear of a HealthCare Innovations ambulance.

The emergency vehicles were parked on the left shoulder of I-10 while responding to an earlier, unrelated incident, according to a DPS statement.

The statement also noted that the unnamed Tesla driver from California was transported to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries and is being investigated for possible DUI. There were no reported injuries to the DPS sergeant, who was not inside his patrol vehicle at the time, nor the occupants of the ambulance.

According to the Tesla website, its Model S is equipped with 360 degree cameras, forward-facing radar, and ultrasonic sensors for detecting potential hazards. It also has an autopilot feature which enables the car “to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane…without driver input.”

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One question the local accident reconstruction specialists must answer is whether the Tesla involved in Tuesday’s crash was operating with an activated autopilot. If so, the incident may garner attention from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) which is reviewing more than a dozen Tesla accidents dating to 2016 in which the autopilot feature may have been engaged.

DPS provided no estimate as to when additional information will be released about the crash.