One of the more common reasons for vehicle collisions in North Carolina continues to be driver distraction. With the exploding ubiquity of cellphones, drivers frequently use GPS, texting apps and even watch videos and television while driving, endangering others on the road. 

The rise in autonomous driving technology may lead drivers to pay still less attention to the road, as when a Tesla driver collided with two police vehicles. 

Tesla driver collides with law enforcement

The Charlotte Observer reported that a local sheriff’s deputy and a state trooper were responding to a wreck on Highway 64 when a Raleigh man drove into the deputy’s vehicle, pushing it, in turn, into the state trooper’s vehicle. The collision totaled both cars. Due to the quick response time of the officers, no one suffered injuries from the incident. 

The driver was allegedly using his cellphone to watch a film while his car was operating in autonomous mode. The car apparently failed to register the officers and drove into them before the man was able to resume control. 

State charges driver

North Carolina is now charging the driver with violating the move-over law — mandating that drivers change lanes when passing officers who are responding to traffic incidents. The state is charging him further with one count of watching television while operating a vehicle. North Carolina enacted a law in 2009 explicitly prohibiting driving while watching television or operating a computer or game. 

Tesla has reported from the technology launch that Autopilot mode still “requires active driver supervision” and is not yet capable of fully independent driving. Yet incidents like this amplify questions about the safety and liability of autonomously driving vehicles.