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Driver says Tesla car gets "confused" and crashes on highway

Delay in autonomous vehicles on the road

A driver in New Jersey says the Autopilot feature in his Tesla car caused him to crash on the highway. "The driver was shaken. He was panicked by the accident," North Brunswick Police Captain Brian Hoiberg told CBS New York. "Just the feeling of not having any control."

The 32-year-old driver, Eric Carter, told police he believes his Tesla Model X got "confused" on a highway in New Brunswick. He said the car's Autopilot sensor apparently mistook diagonal white lines on the road for a new lane. 

According to the police report, obtained by CBS News, the speed limit for that stretch of Route 1 is 55 miles per hour. The SUV was in the right lane and veered to the exit lane where it struck the curb, hit two traffic sign supports, traveled across the lane that would merge traffic onto Adams and over the curb onto a grassy area.

The driver said he was unable to course-correct because the steering wheel was locked in place. 

Police say there was no sign of intoxication, no summons were issued and there were no other witnesses to what happened.

"There is no way to independently corroborate the drivers account of the accident due to technological errors," responding officers wrote in the police report.

No one was injured in the accident. Carter said he hoped accidents like this would help Tesla improve its cars.

Tesla said in a statement to CBS News: "Since we launched Autopilot in 2015, we are not aware of a single instance in which Autopilot refused to disengage." The company also noted that drivers can override the Autopilot, and bypass it by tapping the brakes. Tesla did not say whether it had spoken to the driver in New Jersey or planned to investigate the accident.

Riders in Tesla cars with Autopilot are still expected to monitor the car and control some aspects of driving. Tesla said it recorded one accident for every 2.91 million miles driven with Autopilot during the last quarter of 2018.

At least two people have died in accidents while riding in Tesla cars with Autopilot since 2016. A prototype for a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in 2018. Uber said the crash was caused by a feature of the car's technology that ignores objects in the car's path that are not considered to be an obstacle for driving.

Uber CEO on lessons from Arizona self-driving car accident

Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that Tesla cars with Autopilot are not "self-driving."

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