An electric and partially-automated BMW test vehicle veered into oncoming traffic in Germany, causing a series of four-vehicle collisions that resulted in one fatality and nine serious injuries.
On Monday, the electric BMW iX, which was carrying five people, including an 18-month-old child, swerved out of its lane at a road bend in the southwestern town of Reutlingen, brushing an oncoming Citron.
The BMW, which costs at least £77,300, then collided head-on with a Mercedes-Benz van, killing a 33-year-old woman inside.
The driver of the Citroen, a 70-year-old woman, lost control of her vehicle and collided with another vehicle carrying two people, pushing it off the road and causing it to catch fire.
Police investigating the cause of the collision initially stated that an autonomous test vehicle was involved and that it was unclear whether the 43-year-old BMW driver was actively steering the vehicle or if it was traveling autonomously.
BMW later confirmed the involvement of one of its test vehicles, but denied that it was fully autonomous.
The company reported that the vehicle was equipped with Level 2 driver assistance systems, in which case “the driver is always responsible.” According to BMW’s website, such systems can automatically brake, accelerate, and, unlike Level 1 systems, take over steering.
The automaker stated that it was in close contact with the authorities to determine the exact cause of the accident.
Michael Schaal, a spokesman for the Reutlingen police department, stated that four rescue helicopters were involved in the medical response and that the injured were transported to multiple hospitals in the region.
The BMW’s 43-year-old driver, three adults aged 31, 42, and 47, and an infant of 18 months were all in the test vehicle.
Schaal stated that police had not yet interviewed those involved in the collision.
BMW added that, for data protection purposes, the vehicle was required to be marked as a test vehicle because it was recording video.
BMW stated, “We are currently investigating the exact circumstances” of the accident. We are, without a doubt, in close contact with authorities.
In recent years, there have been a number of accidents involving self-driving cars.
The accident of a self-driving Volvo test car
In 2018, one of Uber’s Volvo test vehicles struck and killed Elaine Herzberg, 49, as she crossed a road in Tempe, Arizona, outside of a crosswalk.
Before the crash, the backup driver for Uber in the self-driving Volvo SUV was reportedly streaming “The Voice” on her phone and looking downward.
The National Transportation Safety Board reported that Volvo’s autonomous driving system detected Herzberg approximately six seconds prior to the collision but did not apply the brakes because the system designed to automatically apply the brakes in potentially hazardous situations had been disabled.
A Volvo emergency braking system was also disabled.
The accidents of Tesla cars
In July, US regulators announced they were conducting an investigation into the death of a woman who was struck by a 39-year-old Tesla driver who, according to reports, was under the influence of drugs and using Autopilot when the car went airborne and struck her.
During the incident, a 39-year-old man was charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of drugs.
Frank Shoaf, who was driving on Othello Avenue around 8:30 a.m. while high from huffing (inhaling household items), is believed to be involved in the incident. He admitted to police that he ran a red light, hit a dip that caused him to fly two feet in the air, and then struck Cassandra May, 40.
Since 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States has opened more than 35 special crash investigations involving Tesla vehicles suspected of using advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot.
A 66-year-old Tesla driver and a 67-year-old passenger were killed earlier this year in Florida when their vehicle rear-ended a tractor-trailer.
Typically, the NHTSA opens more than one hundred special crash investigations per year into emerging technologies and other potential auto safety issues, which have, for instance, aided in the development of airbag safety regulations.
The Florida Highway Patrol reported that a 2015 Tesla rear-ended a tractor-trailer in the Gainesville area at a rest area off Interstate 75. At the scene, both occupants of the Tesla were pronounced dead.
Joshua D. Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was killed in Florida on May 7, 2016, when the cameras in his Tesla Model S failed to distinguish the right white side of a turning tractor-trailer from the brightly lit sky.
And on March 23, 2018, in Mountain View, California, 38-year-old Apple software engineer Walter Huang perished in a crash on U.S. Highway 101 while his Tesla was equipped with Autopilot.
Federal investigators determined that the vehicle accelerated to 71 mph seconds before crashing into a highway barrier.
In a preliminary report on the crash, the NTSB stated that data indicates the Model X SUV did not brake or attempt to steer around the barrier in Silicon Valley in the three seconds prior to the collision.
50-year-old Jeremy Banner perished on March 1, 2019, in Delray, Florida, when his 2018 Tesla Model 3 collided with a semi-truck.
Banner’s vehicle slammed into the truck at 68 mph, ripping off its roof. At the scene, the married father of three was pronounced dead.
Banner activated the autopilot function approximately ten seconds before the crash, and the autopilot did not execute any evasive maneuvers to prevent the accident.
On April 17, 2016, in Houston, Texas, a Tesla crashed into a tree and caught fire, resulting in the deaths of two men: the car’s owner, Doctor William Varner, and his friend, Everette Talbot.
Officers reported that no one was in the driver’s seat at the time of the accident in the Houston neighborhood of The Woodlands.
However, Tesla refuted police claims, stating that a deformed steering wheel indicated that someone was likely behind the wheel.
Varner, 59, and Talbot, 69, perished in the fatal collision when the Tesla Model S, which had been purchased used from eBay in January, crashed into a tree and caught fire.
Steven Michael Hendrickson, 35, was killed on May 5, 2021, in Los Angeles, California, when his white Tesla Model 3 collided with an overturned semi-truck at approximately 2:30 a.m.
Before his death, the married father of two posted videos to social media of himself driving an electric vehicle without his hands or feet on the wheel or pedals.
One video on his Instagram account showed him navigating freeway traffic in a Tesla without his hands on the wheel or foot on the accelerator.
The video included the comment, “My best carpool buddy even handles the tedious traffic.”
The collision occurred on the 210 Freeway close to Fontana, California, approximately 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
Prior to the collision, a preliminary investigation determined that Tesla’s partially automated driving system, Autopilot, was “engaged.”
The fatal crash was the 29th involving a Tesla to be investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to a spokesman, no definitive conclusion has been reached regarding the cause of the accident.
According to a highway patrol report, the Mack truck that the Tesla collided with had crashed and overturned just five minutes prior, blocking two lanes of traffic.