NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A Tesla self-driving vehicle crashes in New Jersey and the driver says it happened because of a problem with the car’s autopilot feature. Police are taking his word for it, but the futuristic car company is disputing the claim.
A missing side-view mirror and traffic signs knocked to the ground mark the accident site in North Brunswick.
The crash happened on Sunday around 6:30 p.m. when the driver’s Tesla Model X was traveling in the right lane of Route 1 North.
The driver told police the vehicle’s autopilot sensor mistook a set of diagonal white lines on the roadway for a new lane.
“He wanted to stay on Route 1 North. He said at that point he believes the vehicle got confused,” Capt. Brian Hoiberg of the North Brunswick Police Department said.
Authorities say the vehicle went onto the grass on the left side of the Adams Lane exit ramp – traveling across the road, jumping the curb, hitting signs, and winding up in the grass.
The driver said the steering wheel locked on him even though his hands were on it the whole time.
“The driver was shaken up. He was panicked by the accident,” Capt. Hoiberg added. “Just the feeling of not having any control.”
Hoiberg says the police do not have the technology to confirm whether the driver was in autopilot and does not plan to issue any summonses.
Jay Laposa’s company towed the Tesla.
“It’s just weird. It was on an offramp, not on a major highway,” Laposa said.
Tesla claims that since launching autopilot in 2015, it’s not aware of a single instance in which autopilot refused to disengage.
The company added that a driver can easily override autopilot by lightly touching the steering wheel or brakes. CBS2’s Lisa Rozner spoke to the 32-year-old driver by phone.
Although he didn’t want to be recorded, he said he is not faulting the company. The driver added that autopilot has problems and accidents like this one will only help the company improve the product.