Tesla Bursts into Flames After Hitting Highway Barrier While on Autopilot in Los Angeles

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A Tesla driver was horrified to see another Tesla vehicle burst into flames after hitting a highway barrier in Los Angeles. The Tesla that was engulfed in flames was reportedly on Autopilot at the time of the crash.

Josh Kaplan was driving his Tesla Model X on a Los Angeles freeway last month when he saw another Tesla ahead of him was stopped on the highway. As he got closer, he noticed smoke coming from the vehicle.

Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors, center, participates in the opening bell ceremony at the Nasdaq Marketsite with his twin boys Griffin, green shirt at center, and Xavier, right in blue shirt, and his fiancee Talulah Riley, second from right, in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, June 29, 2010. Tesla Motors Inc., the electric car company that hasn’t posted a profit, raised $226 million selling shares above its forecast price range in the first initial public offering of a U.S. automaker in a half century. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“I noticed a car facing left against the barrier despite the road veering to the right,” Josh Kaplan told Business Insider.

The driver of the other Tesla, who was not injured in the incident, told Kaplan that he was using the Autopilot feature on his 2018 Model X, when “it suddenly veered hard to the left and stopped against the wall.”

“In the time it took me to call 911, it caught fire,” Kaplan said, adding that it “kind of looked like sparklers going off.” The sparkler effect was likely caused by individual sells within the battery exploding individually as the cells around them became superheated.

Kaplan mentioned that he has also experienced mistakes by Autopilot while in his Model X, telling Business Insider that “just last week, it completely ignored a traffic cone on the highway and ran over it.”

“That was just before, the car turned from an inside of a double-turn lane into the outside lane despite there being other vehicles already occupying that space,” he added.

Kaplan also noted that he bought his Tesla about four months ago with 6,000 miles on it, but “it has been a complete disappointment — software notwithstanding, the fit and finish are miserable.”

“The user interface would often display a blank screen when the software crashes or the system doesn’t update that some basic functions, including navigation voice being turned off instead of the previous setting,” Kaplan added of the system.

“This means that if you’re driving, and the computer crashes, which it has done multiple times, you are left with a blank screen — and no way to know what your car is doing,” the electric vehicle owner said.

Kaplan also joked that Tesla should advertise its Autopilot feature as “the scariest ride you’ll ever take.”

Over the summer, a federal probe of Tesla’s Autopilot function escalated, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigating if the Autopilot feature is potentially defective. The agency is studying data on 200 Tesla crashes, stating that “On average in these crashes, Autopilot aborted vehicle control less than one second prior to the first impact.”

The safety of Tesla’s Autopilot software was also questioned after it was involved in three fatal crashes that occurred in a 51-day span — all of them involving a Tesla that struck a motorcycle in the early morning hours with Autopilot active.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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