Police probe whether Tesla which mowed down seven was on autopilot

Police probe whether Tesla Model 3 was on autopilot when it mowed down six schoolchildren and parent outside £36,000-a-year Ardingly College in Sussex

  • Emergency services scrambled to the scene of the crash at 4.30pm on Monday 
  • A boy, eight, reportedly trapped under the car, was flown to hospital in London
  • He is being treated for what police call serious but not life threatening injuries 
  • Officers understood to be probing whether the car was on autopilot at the time
  • US government this week launched its own investigation into the driving system 

Police are investigating whether a £40,000 Tesla Model 3 was on autopilot when it mowed down six schoolchildren and a parent outside a private school in Sussex. 

Several ambulances and an air ambulance attended the crash, which took place on the grounds of the £36,000-a-year Ardingly College, at around 4.30pm on Monday.

An eight-year-old boy – reportedly trapped underneath the car – was flown to St George’s Hospital in London shortly after the collision, after sustaining what police describe as serious but not life threatening injuries.

Six other people – five children and one adult – were all taken to local hospitals for treatment to minor injuries as they waited to be picked up after a school holiday camp.

The driver, a 47-year-old woman who was in the vehicle at the time of the collision, was uninjured.

Following initial reports of a ‘driver error’, police are now understood to be looking into whether the car was being driven on its autopilot setting.

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAMB) confirmed it had sent several vehicles to a road traffic collision in College Road, Ardingly, this afternoon at around 4.30pm. Pictured: General view of College Road

A child has been seriously injured and six more people have been hurt after a £40,000 Tesla car smashed into pedestrians

The Argus reported the child was trapped under what is believed to be a Tesla during the incident

Autopilot uses cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar to see and sense the environment around the car. 

The sensor and camera suite provides drivers with an awareness of their surroundings that a driver alone would not otherwise have. 

A powerful onboard computer processes these inputs in a matter of milliseconds to help what the company say makes driving ‘safer and less stressful.’

Autopilot is a hands-on driver assistance system that is intended to be used only with a fully attentive driver. 

It does not turn a Tesla into a self-driving car nor does it make a car autonomous.

Before enabling Autopilot, driver must agree to ‘keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times’ and to always ‘maintain control and responsibility for your car.’ 

Once engaged, if insufficient torque is applied, Autopilot will also deliver an escalating series of visual and audio warnings, reminding drivers to place their hands on the wheel. 

If drivers repeatedly ignore the warnings, they are locked out from using Autopilot during that trip.

Any of Autopilot’s features can be overridden at any time by steering or applying the brakes.

The Autopilot does not function well in poor visibility.

It comes after the US government announced this week it will formally investigate Tesla’s partially automated driving system over 11 accidents – one deadly – feared to have been caused because the system has trouble spotting parked emergency vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the investigation covers 765,000 vehicles, nearly everything Tesla has sold domestically since 2014. 

Of the 11 crashes that have been identified over the past three years, 17 people were injured and one was killed.

That deadly accident happened in Interstate 70 in Cloverdale, Indiana, in December 2019 and saw passenger Jenna Monet, 23, killed after the Tesla being driven by her husband Derrick slammed into the back of a parked fire engine.  

Ardingly College, an independent day and boarding co-educational school with fees of £36,000, is located in the village.

Sussex Police Superintendent James Collis said yesterday: ‘I’d like to thank our emergency services partners and members of the public who assisted at the scene. Our thoughts are with those there yesterday and their families.

‘The cause of the collision will form part of our investigation, and we ask people not to speculate at this time.

‘Thank you to those that have already given details. Anyone else who saw what happened or who has any other information, including any relevant dash cam or mobile phone footage, is asked to please get in touch.’ 

The 11 crashes have occurred when Teslas on Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control hit vehicles at scenes where first responders have used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards. 

Shares of Tesla fell more nearly 4.5 percent to $685.20 in early Monday trading on back of the news. 

But the company’s billionaire owner Elon Musk has claimed in recent months the function was safer than ever. 

He tweeted: ‘Tesla with autopilot engaged now approaching ten times lower chance of accident than average vehicle.’

No fatalities have been reported yet and the accident is believe to be the result of ‘driver error’

ITV Meridian reported a child was airlifted to hospital by the air ambulance with serious injuries after the collision and six  other people are being treated for minor injuries

 Sussex Police confirmed the incident took place on College Road in Ardingly. Pictured: General view of Ardingly

South East Coast Ambulance Service said: ‘Following an RTC in Ardingly this afternoon, our crews treated and transported six patients – 5 children and  1 adult –  to local hospitals; three with potentially serious injuries. 

‘One patient in a critical condition was transported by air ambulance to St Georges, London.’ 

Anyone who saw what happened is asked to contact police online or by calling 101 quoting serial 980 of 16/08. 

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