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Tesla crashes into tourist bus in Germany. Company says autopilot is not to blame

Christopher Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Christopher Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A Tesla car whose driver said he was using the “Autopilot” driving assistance system crashed into a bus on a motorway in northern Germany on Wednesday, police in the German town of Ratzeburg said on Thursday.

“The car driver said he had used the car’s Autopilot. It now has to be investigated why this did not work,” police said in a statement, adding that the Tesla driver was slightly injured and none of the 29 bus passengers was hurt.

The police statement said the 50-year-old Tesla driver from Brandenburg drove into the back of the Danish tour bus as it was returning to the inside lane after overtaking.

The police were not immediately reachable by phone for further questions after hours on Thursday.

“We have spoken to our customer, who confirmed that Autopilot was functioning properly and that his use of Autopilot was unrelated to the accident,” according to a statement from Tesla provided to CNBC. “We’re glad that he’s safe.”

Tesla’s Autopilot, introduced last October, has been the focus of intense scrutiny since it was revealed in July that a Tesla Model S driver was killed while using the technology in a May 7 collision with a truck in Florida.

The Silicon Valley automaker said this month it was updating the semi-autonomous driving system with new limits on hands-off driving and other improvements.

The company claims the accident in Ratzeburg was unavoidable because the bus swerved into the vehicle’s lane.

The car’s driver told Tesla following the crash that he was using Autopilot when the incident occurred but that it was unrelated to the accident, a Tesla spokeswoman said on Thursday.

“We have spoken to our customer, who confirmed that Autopilot was functioning properly and that his use of Autopilot was unrelated to the accident,” Tesla said in a statement.

Reuters could not confirm independently what the car driver told Tesla and the circumstances that caused the bus to swerve.

Tesla’s Autopilot, introduced last October, helps drivers steer and stay in lanes and is intended to assist, but not replace, drivers. It has been the focus of intense scrutiny since it was revealed in July that a Tesla Model S driver was killed while using the technology in a 7 May collision with a truck in Florida.

Since then, there have been various reports of accidents involving Teslas whose drivers were using Autopilot, including a fatality in China, but it is not clear what role, if any, the driving assistance system played. There have also been reports of serious accidents prevented because of Autopilot.

Tesla denied that Autopilot was at fault, saying the bus swerved into the car’s lane and side-swiped the Tesla, making a collision “unavoidable”, the spokeswoman said. “We can only do so much to prevent an accident,” she said, adding that Tesla was in contact with German police.

 

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