As several probes into Tesla’s Autopilot are ongoing by U.S. authorities, another accident was reported Sunday with the system engaged.

The driver, according to Tesla, was using the system in Montana on a two-lane road where he should not have been, and with hands believed to be off the wheel, meaning he violated terms of use for Autopilot.

He and passenger were not injured from the collision after the Model X was witnessed swerving into wooden rails, but the news adds to the public scrutiny Tesla is undergoing.

Tesla chief Elon Musk said on Twitter this was as it should be, and the company does not “mind taking the heat for customer safety.”

A Tesla representative told BBC the driver near Cardwell, Montana ignored alerts from the Autopilot system.

“This vehicle was being driven along an undivided mountain road shortly after midnight with autosteer enabled,” a spokeswoman told the BBC.

“The data suggests that the driver’s hands were not on the steering wheel, as no force was detected on the steering wheel for over two minutes after autosteer was engaged – even a very small amount of force, such as one hand resting on the wheel, will be detected.

Meanwhile the general public – including Tesla fans, Tesla observers, and the merely indifferent – are weighing what it means that the “beta” system is being so scrutinized.


Musk recently said “beta” is defined as one billion miles, and Tesla has otherwise said drivers are statistically safer with the system on, rather than off.

But authorities are also making sure. Probes into the company began with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) following a fatal Model S crash in May.

On those federal regulators’ heels came the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which acts semi independently from NHTSA and has stepped in seeing this new technology warrants it.

After that, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating whether Tesla’s delay in disclosing the May crash constituted a breach of protocol.

Musk answered the SEC’s question of why it took until June 30 to report – 54 days after the incident, and nine days after reporting to NHTSA.

“I didn’t know there had been an autopilot incident at the time of the fundraising,” Musk has said. “What we told NHTSA was just that somebody died – it wasn’t that there was an autopilot incident.”

NHTSA on Tuesday released a letter that it had sent to Tesla giving details about its investigation.

Opinions have varied over what some are now terming a level 2 self-driving feature that may not account for human nature to put their guard down while using it.

People already are risk takers, as evidenced by behaviors including intoxicated driving, and texting at the wheel.

Perhaps it was inevitable something would go wrong, and no one should be surprised, but the drama is playing out in any event.