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The collision sent the vehicles rolling in an out-of-control domino effect in August 2020 in North Carolina and hit a deputy sheriff standing on the roadside.
The Tesla’s driver was Devainder Goli, a Raleigh doctor, who was watching a movie on his mobile phone while the car drove itself, according to officials.
The incident involved officers from the Nash County Sheriff’s Office and State Highway Patrol on US Highway 64,
In the early morning hours of August 26, 2020, the Tesla collided with the deputy’s car first, which then was pushed into the State Highway Patrol car from the impact.
Video shows the rolling patrol car bump into one of two law enforcement officials standing on the roadside. Then, one man appears to push the other out of the way as the car careens past.
“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,” said Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone after the crash.
The deputy was conducting a lane closure overnight on US 64, near Spring Hope, as a highway patrol trooper investigated a separate crash. Both the deputy and trooper were outside their cars.
“It could have been very horrific,” said Mr Stone.
WRAL News first reported the crash back in August of 2020, but the newly-released footage sheds new light on those frightening moments.
Footage shows the two men standing on the side of the highway, talking, when suddenly the cruiser rolls into frame, bumping the deputy before side-swiping a sign and rolling down a hill into the trees.
Both men appear to fall over.
Then the trooper runs back into frame, seeming to talk into his radio.
Then, the dashcam shows the vehicle follow the Telsa to where it had stopped, a short ways down the highway.
The driver gets out of the Tesla and walks away with the official. After that, the video ends.
Similar autopilot crashes under investigation
The US Department of Transportation is looking is looking into about a dozen similar crashes involving Tesla cars and emergency vehicles to find out what role the auto-pilot might have played in the crash.
Many of the incidents happened at night — just like the crash in Nash County where the patrol cars on scene had their emergency lights activated.
“None of these are autonomous or self-driving systems, these are driver assist systems,” Sam Abuelsamid, an expert in self-driving vehicles, said.
The US federal government is now taking a closer look at Tesla’s autopilot mode after several crashes involving emergency vehicles resulting in 17 injuries and one death.
“These are all systems that are designed for the driver to be watching the road, paying attention at all times and in fact, in the case of Tesla’s system your hands are supposed to be on the wheel,” Mr Abuelsamid said.
Tesla, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, says its autopilot feature requires active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.
“Manufacturers often maybe overstate what the systems can do and they don’t talk about as much what they can not do,” Mr Abuelsamid said.
One limitation, he says, appears to be how Tesla’s sensors and cameras work at night.
Experts also remind drivers that it’s the law to move over one lane for emergency crews when you are easily able to do so.