Partially autonomous cars are already on the nation’s roadways, so any time one of them gets into an accident it’s going to be a pretty big deal. The latest example of that is a recent Tesla Model S crash in Texas, where the vehicle — which was on autopilot at the time — failed to see a barrier and slammed right into a bright yellow wall. That sounds like a pretty huge misstep for the self-driving system, but new video showing the crash from the point of view of a driver following the Tesla reveals that the highway wasn’t exactly doing the vehicle’s AI any favors.
As you can see in the GIF above, which was posted to Reddit from the driver following the Tesla during the incident, the road is clearly under construction. The car, which is equipped with Tesla’s first-generation autopilot feature, fails to recognize the extremely sharp angle of the construction barrier and continues in the direction the road would have originally gone, causing it to slam into the wall.
The driver’s original Reddit post failed to explain these details, and described what sounded like a total failure of the Tesla to even stay on the road:
“I was driving in the left lane of a two lane highway. The car is AP1 (first generation Autopilot) and I’ve never had any problems until today. Autopilot was on and didn’t give me a warning. It misread the road and hit the barrier. After the airbags deployed there was a bunch of smoke and my car rolled to a grinding stop. Thankfully no one was hurt and I walked away with only bruises.”
Tesla’s autopilot is not meant to replace the driver, and Tesla has always maintained that the driver must keep their hands on the wheel in case of an emergency. It’s clear from the video that the autopilot was only doing what it was designed to do, and couldn’t possibly have accounted for the dramatic angle of the detour. The human-piloted vehicle following the Tesla even has to jerk the wheel sharply to avoid colliding with the bright yellow obstacle, so it’s easy to see how the car’s modest computer assistant came up short.
Eventually, Tesla hopes to have its vehicles to the point where they can not only guide themselves down the highway, but also notice and avoid situations like this one. Unfortunately, it’s just not there yet, and the driver appears to be the one at fault.