Tesla fires are back in the news today due to a Model 3 exploding after a crash with a tow truck in Moscow.
The vehicle was reportedly on Autopilot at the time of the accident.
Russian businessman Alexey Tretyakov was driving his Model 3 (previous Russian reports stated that it was a Model S) last night when it hit a tow truck that was servicing a vehicle on the highway near Moscow.
According to local media, he and his two children were severely injured and transported to the hospital.
Update: Tretyakov has now confirmed that he suffered a broken leg and his children got bruises, but everyone is otherwise OK.
The Model S caught on fire shortly after the accident and then exploded.
Passersby captured several impressive videos of the fire and following explosions, which happened while there was still heavy traffic around the burning vehicle:
According to Russian media outlet Zvezda, the police believes that the Tesla Model 3 was on Autopilot (translated from Russian):
According to a law enforcement source, the Tesla was probably driving on Autopilot and couldn’t recognize the tow truck in front of it, after which it caught fire.
Update: Tretyakov has also since confirmed that he was on Autopilot.
There were previous accidents involving Tesla vehicles on Autopilot crashing into stopped or stalled vehicles on the highway, including a fatal crash with a street sweeper truck in China in 2016.
Tesla asks that drivers always keep their hands on the steering wheel when using Autopilot, and that they stay ready to take control at any time.
The automaker insists that it is safer to drive on Autopilot than without, and that its vehicles are much less likely to catch on fire than gas-powered vehicles.
Tesla backs those claims with quarterly safety reports.
In its latest safety report, Tesla claimed that there was a Tesla vehicle fire for every 170 million miles traveled between 2012 and 2018 compared to a vehicle fire for every 19 million miles traveled in the US.
That’s a tragic accident and hopefully, they all survive their injuries. (Update: looks like nothing too severe.)
These kinds of accidents involving Autopilot, if it was indeed on Autopilot, always bring up the issue of whether or not Autopilot makes you more or less alert.
I think it depends on each individual.
For me, it’s helpful. The reduced workload helps me focus on the road ahead, and since I am aware that AP is far from perfect, I am always ready to intervene.
However, it’s clear that some people are growing way too confident in the system, as we have learned of several accidents over the years where the drivers had a lot of time to react but didn’t until it was too late.
I am not saying that it is the case here, but it’s something that everyone should keep in mind when using the driver-assist system, because that’s what it is: a driver-assist system and not a driver replacement.
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