Does an empty car carrier trailer confuse Autopilot’s sensors? Watch as a Model 3 rear-ends a transport truck

Tesla rear ends transport truck

This incident caught on TeslaCam is a good reminder to always be alert and be ready to take control at anytime when using Autopilot.

Alan Zavari posted the TeslaCam footage to YouTube, explaining he was driving along in traffic with Autopilot engaged. According to him, he has used Autopilot for about 20,000 miles (32,000km) with no incidents.

On the day in question, Zavari had been following the car carrier for a few minutes in stop-and-go traffic with no issues. Autopilot was engaged, with the following distance set to 3 car lengths.

After coming to a complete stop behind the truck for a few moments, the car begins to slowly creep forward, eventually rear-ending the transport truck. Fortunately the accident was not forceful enough for the airbags to deploy, but his Model 3 did sustain damage to the front bumper and hood.

Let’s first address the fact that Zavari was clearly not paying attention. There was a full 5 seconds between when the car started accelerating to the moment of impact. Had he been alert and focused on the road in front of him, he would have had ample time to apply the brakes and stop the car before hitting the truck.

Now on the question of why Autopilot allegedly began accelerating when the truck clearly did not move. It appears this could be a case of Autopilot mistaking the empty transport truck as not being there (think of it like an open box), and the sensors picked up the car that was loaded on the carrier near the front of the truck. The computer interpreted the empty trailer as empty space, and began moving up to be within 3 car lengths of the ‘car’ in front of it.

Whatever the reason is, Autopilot is still a work in progress, and drivers are meant to be alert at all times when it is engaged. If nothing else, this serves as a good reminder of that.

What do you think? Was Autopilot engaged? Why did the Tesla begin accelerating? Let us know in the comments below.

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