Tesla Autopilot Crashes Into Police Car, Hits Cop as Driver 'Watches Movie'

Newly released dashcam video showed a doctor's autopilot-driven Tesla slamming into a parked police vehicle, which then strikes a sheriff's deputy. All of this occurred while the doctor was allegedly watching a movie on his phone.

The incident itself happened in summer 2020. However, the full extent of the accident was only revealed on Wednesday, when the video of the crash was released by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP).

The video was captured by the dashcam of a parked police car. It showed two law enforcement officials standing on the side of U.S. Highway 64, one from the NCSHP and one from the Nash County Sheriff's office.

That's when a state highway patrol car, which had just been crashed into by the Tesla, comes into view, careening toward the pair and bumping into the sheriff's deputy. As he is hit, the NCSHP officer pulls him out of the way toward safety.

The car is then seen rolling into a ditch at the edge of the highway. Photos taken after the accident showed that the vehicle was significantly damaged.

Law enforcement officials later noted that, without the effort of the NCSHP officer, the outcome for the deputy may have been significantly worse.

"Luckily, the state trooper pushed our deputy out of the way when he heard the tires squeal, and in an instant, we could have lost a life or several lives," Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said following the accident. "It could have been very horrific."

Tesla Logo
Newly released dashcam video shows a police car careening into a group of law enforcement officials after it was struck by a Tesla. The Tesla was allegedly being driven on autopilot, and the person behind the wheel was reportedly on their phone watching a movie when the crash occurred. Here, the Tesla logo can be seen at a store in New York. John Smith/Getty

In the aftermath of the crash, it was discovered that the driver, a Raleigh, North Carolina doctor named Devainder Goli, was allegedly watching a movie on his phone while his Tesla was under the control of the autopilot.

Goli was arrested and charged with a move-over violation as well as "viewing a television device while driving," according to WITN-TV. An internet search showed Goli's medical practice as "permanently closed."

Incidents such as this one have become increasingly common among users of Tesla's autopilot feature.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified at least 12 instances of major car crashes involving Tesla's autopilot. The agency opened a federal probe into the electric car giant as a result of these crashes, and Tesla was ordered to turn over its autopilot data to investigators.

This investigation remains ongoing. While the NHTSA has confirmed only 12 crashes, CNN reporter Ana Cabrera said Wednesday that: "Other crashes involving Tesla's autopilot have resulted in at least 17 injuries and one death."

Additionally, a number of studies, including reports from NHTSA and MIT, have concluded that Tesla's autopilot technology is not as safe as the company claims.

A California family made headlines this past July after they sued Tesla following the death of their 15-year-old son. An autopilot-controlled Tesla had failed to slow down and struck a pickup truck that the boy was in, reportedly throwing him from the vehicle and killing him.

The family said that Tesla's technology was partly to blame for the accident.

Tesla, as well as its CEO, billionaire mogul Elon Musk, have pushed back on assertions that their autopilot feature is inherently unsafe, however. A list of features on the company's website also stated that "many factors can impact the performance of Autopilot components, causing them to be unable to function as intended."

These can include "poor visibility," "bright light," and "narrow or winding roads," in addition to a number of other variables.

"Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous," Tesla said, adding that "it is the driver's responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and be in control of the vehicle at all times."

Newsweek reached out to Tesla for comment.