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Lawsuits & Litigation

Texas Police Officers Sue Tesla After “Autopilot” Accident

— October 1, 2021

The lawsuit suggests that Tesla’s “Autopilot” mode cannot detect emergency vehicles when their flashing lights are on.

Five Texas police officers have filed a lawsuit against Tesla after they were hit by a Model X in Autopilot mode.

According to ARS Technica, the officers had stopped their vehicles along the roadside and activated their flashing lights when they were injured by an errant Tesla Model X.

“On February 27, 2021, a Tesla Model X engaged in Autopilot and equipped with Tesla’s proprietary system of safety features, crashed into several police officers who were engaged in a traffic stop in a blocked-off lane of traffic on the Eastex Freeway in Texas,” the lawsuit states. “All were badly injured.”

The injured personnel include four Montgomery County constables and a Splendora, Texas, officer.

The lawsuit accuses Tesla of gross negligence insofar as it failed to “safely and properly design, market, and manufacture the Autopilot system.” It also asserts that Tesla did not “warn the public of the Autopilot system’s inability to detect emergency cars with flashing lights.”

2017 Tesla Model X
2017 Tesla Model X; image courtesy of Vauxford via Wikimedia Commons,

The officers, notes ARS Technica, are requesting “damages for the severe injuries and permanent disabilities they have suffered as a result of the crash.” says that the lawsuit lists damages in excess of $1,000,000, with a maximum of $20,000,000 sought.

“The officers want to hold Tesla accountable,” the lawsuit states, observing that Tesla and its “Autopilot” systems have been linked to at least 12 crashes involving first responders working active emergency scenes.

“Upon research, what we have discovered is, this is happening all over the country,” attorney Tony Buzbee told KPRC 2 in an interview. “In fact, the government has just recently—I’m talking about in the last 30-60 days—has requested of Tesla to turn over information regarding every crash that has occurred involving the Tesla on autopilot that also involves police officers, because apparently the defect that exists is when the police lights are flashing it makes the Tesla on autopilot not detect the vehicle.”

“You’ve probably see [sic] that Elon Musk and Tesla have proudly touted Teslas on autopilot are [sic] safer than your every-day driver, that Tesla’s [sic] on autopilot there are fewer accidents than they are otherwise,” he added. “But what we’ve learned is that this information is misleading.”

By suing, they hope to both collect recompense and “force Tesla to publicly acknowledge and immediately correct the known defects inherent in its Autopilot and collision avoidance systems, particularly as those impact the ongoing safety of our nation’s first responders.”

The lawsuit also names as a defendant Pappas Restaurants, claiming that the driver of the Tesla had been over-served alcohol by a server at a Pappasito’s Cantina before the accident.

Pappas Restaurants has since said that it “will be conducting an investigation into [the lawsuit’s] allegations.”


Lawsuit filed against Tesla after accident that injured 5 police officers

Tesla on Autopilot slammed into police cars despite flashing lights, lawsuit says

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