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Tesla Model 3 slams into police cruiser; driver claims Autopilot engaged

The driver says he was "checking on his dog" in the back seat.

A Tesla Model 3 driver has been ticketed by police after slamming into the back of a Ford Police Interceptor sedan that was stopped on a Connecticut highway.

Two police vehicles were parked behind a disabled vehicle in the left center lane of northbound Interstate 95 in the city of Norwalk when the Model 3 approached and struck one of the state trooper cars and the civilian vehicle. The Connecticut State Police say both of their cars had emergency lights active and a flare pattern had been laid out behind the cruisers.

"The operator of the Tesla stated that he had his vehicle on 'auto-pilot' and explained that he was checking on his dog which was in the back seat prior to hitting the collision," the CSP wrote on Facebook.

Several previous Autopilot accidents have involved stationary emergency vehicles, which may have been misinterpreted as fixed objects beside the road. Tesla has claimed to be making progress toward solving the "vision problem," improving algorithms to better identify potential obstacles based on camera data alone. Emergency lights on police cruisers and road flares have been designed specifically to provide clear and standardized visual indications to motorists, even from afar.

The current-generation Autopilot hardware is claimed to be finally capable of achieving "full self-driving" capability. Tesla has not yet rolled out full autonomy, however, and has not specifically confirmed if the latest hardware or software have addressed the apparent deficiencies in identifying certain fixed objects in the middle of the road. It is also unclear if the latest crash involved a Model 3 equipped with the latest Autopilot HW3 or an earlier version.

In any case, Tesla warns drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times while Autopilot is active. The Model 3 driver in Connecticut was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving and reckless endangerment.

"Regardless of your vehicles capabilities, when operating a vehicle your full attention is required at all times to ensure safe driving," the CSP said. "According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although a number of vehicles have some automated capabilities, there are no vehicles currently for sale that are fully automated or self-driving."

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