IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Several Houston Area Cops Sue Tesla Over Autopilot System

A handful of Houston-area cops aren't happy with Tesla's autopilot system. Five law enforcement officers in Montgomery County, Texas, are suing Elon Musk's electric car company for nearly $20 million over it.

tesla
(TNS) — A handful of Houston-area cops aren't happy with Tesla's autopilot system. Five law enforcement officers in Montgomery County are suing Elon Musk's electric car company for nearly $20 million over it.

The lawsuit stems from a Feb. 27 crash when a drunk driver behind the wheel of a 2019 Tesla Model X slammed into the back of cruisers belonging to Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable's Office deputies and a Splendora Police Department officer along the Eastex Freeway. The officers had pulled a driver over and were conducting a roadside search with a police canine when the wreck occurred.

Early reports in the Montgomery County Police Reporter claim the Splendora officer was conducting a search under the stopped truck and dragged a "short distance" by the impact. The dispatch also states a Montgomery County deputy was pinned between a police SUV and a wall bordering the bridge where the stop occurred. The suspect from the traffic stop was allegedly thrown under a patrol vehicle and transferred to a medical center in Kingwood with head trauma. K-9 officer "Kodiak" is listed as being "evaluated" in the report.

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

"There was no indication (the Tesla driver) even tried to stop when he rear-ended the deputies' Tahoes," Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden said at the time of the crash.

The driver, identified as Michael Minh Le, was found to be intoxicated and was arrested that night. Le pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault charge on Sept. 16. Officers filed a lawsuit against Tesla 10 days later, records show. The suit also lists Pappas Restaurants as a defendant, claiming workers at a Pappasito's Cantina overserved Le earlier that night.

The group of cops claims the proprietary autopilot system failed to detect their police SUVs, some of which were stopped in a moving lane of traffic. Video from the scene shows their lights were activated to warn drivers, but officers believe the autopilot system didn't know how to interpret the red and blue strobes.

This is problematic, Buzbee and the plaintiffs allege. Musk often touts the safety features of Tesla's plethora of assisted-driving technology, but the car company has found itself under federal investigation stemming from a string of crashes involving its signature self-driving feature.

" Tesla can't have it both ways," the lawsuit reads. "... Tesla knows that Tesla drivers listen to these claims and believe their vehicles are equipped to drive themselves, resulting in potentially severe injuries or death."

The suit is seeking as much as $20 million from the car company. Tesla and Pappas Restaurants have yet to officially respond.

© 2021 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Special Projects
Sponsored Articles