What appears to be the first Tesla Autopilot accident in China was recently reported. The scenario that played out is a familiar one — having some things in common with an earlier accident in Switzerland, where the software seems to have not dealt effectively with the sudden swerving of a vehicle out in front that moved to avoid a stationary vehicle.
It’s worth noting here upfront that Tesla apparently warns in its owner manual of the limitations of the feature in such situations. So it really seems to be on the driver in these circumstances to anticipate the situation, and to take control oneself when necessary.
The commentator “Tam” on the Tesla Motors Club forum provided a clear explanation of the cause of the accident: “The Model S (labeled blue) was locking on a moving leader car (labeled yellow). The leader car swerved right to avoid colliding to a stopped vehicle (labled black). The Model S (labeled blue) continued to drive straight to closely follow the leader car but also closely centering the lane without swerving and while it ignored the presence of the stopped vehicle. The Model S driver now realized an impending collision and grabbed the wheel to swerve right but it was too late and it swiped the stopped vehicle. Thankfully, the damage was minimal to both vehicles.”
As one can see in the image below, the damage was quite minor, and apparently didn’t even result in a “shock” visible on the dashcam that was installed in the car.
As noted in a follow-up comment by “bhzmark,” the situation that caused the accident isn’t an easy one to solve: “That’s a tough problem to solve. AP has to decide whether to swerve out of lane and potentially side swipe a person in the next lane, or slam on the brakes to stop behind the parked car that is only partially blocking the lane. That can be a tough problem for a human where the front car hides the stopped car, the front car has room to swerve in the next lane, but your following car is blocked in the next lane. btw a rock and a hard place. a tough one. pointing out the need to remain alert and looking ahead.”
I wonder how Tesla intends to eventually address the problem?