A Tesla vehicle reportedly burst into flames on the side of a Russian highway over the weekend after colliding with a tow truck, once again raising safety concerns over the automaker's semi-autonomous driving system known as Autopilot.
This comes on the heels of other accidents involving Tesla vehicles on Autopilot crashing into stationary cars on the road.
Reuters reported on Sunday that the Tesla Model 3 driver told local media that Autopilot was active during the crash. The driver, identified as Alexei Tretyakov, also said he was still holding the steering wheel when the incident occurred.
While Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that all the company's vehicles are a software update away from being self-driving capable, keeping your hands on the steering wheel is required when using the software feature for now.
Tesla owners love sharing photos of their cars. We invited drivers across social media to send us their favorite shots.
Tom Moloughney, who runs a Tesla Model 3 Facebook group with nearly 41,000 members, shared a shot of the car he test drove. He was a first-day reservation holder. Tom Moloughney>Fullscreen
Min and Chad Hurin figured out a way to afford to buy their Teslas -- rent them out, airbnb style. Their company, Frunk Yea, has a fleet -- an S, a 3 and an X -- and are based in San Diego and Tampa. Min Hurin>Fullscreen
A Model 3 trickle charging in the North Woods of Minnesota. Bryce Pier>Fullscreen
Along with Models S, 3 and X come a couple of babies. The shot features a 2016 Model S 70D, a 2018 Performance Model 3 and a 2016 Model X 90D with a couple of Radio Flyer Tesla Model S's for the kids.
Among the long list of Rema Shalan's favorite things about her Model X are the self-presenting doors, summon feature and Bioweapon Defense Mode. Rema Shalan>Fullscreen
Christopher Chan says that before the Tesla, "my favorite car was the BMW 328i 2012, which I loved driving until the kids were born." (He had to swap it for the popular parent-mobile, the Honda Odyssey.)
While he said he "missed that 'ultimate driving machine' feeling" of the BMW, "the Model 3 is the BMW experience plus more."
This was taken Dec. 8, 2018, at Santana Row in San Jose, California.
https://www.christopher-chan.com Christopher Chan>Fullscreen
Karina's Model X sports custom wheels, tinted windows and a satin metallic purple wrap. Karina Wu>Fullscreen
This is "Marvin," a Model S that Kristy Eisele bought in 2016 and drove from New York to California and back to take her son to college. This shot was taken in Reno, Nevada.
"[B]eing able to put the car in Autopilot takes away a lot of stress of driving long distances," she says. "At the end of the day, I can arrive at my destination and not be exhausted." Kristy Eisele (@razemfrazem)>Fullscreen
Ryan's Model 3 in St. Petersburg, Florida, October 2018. He's had the car since June and says it's his "favorite thing."
"The car is constantly evolving and they provide the updated features for free. Not even the iPhone gives you that much with an update without purchasing a new model."
He's a big fan of the self-driving capabilities: "I don’t know how I drove before without it. I used to dread long drives or driving in traffic, but this makes it so simple and easy." Ryan Tickle>Fullscreen
"Ruby Rose" is Adam Etkin’s 2018 long-range, rear wheel drive Tesla Model 3, with chrome delete and custom Aero wheel covers. Adam Etkin>Fullscreen
Clay Whitely, from Sacramento, says driving his Model 3 "puts a smile on my face every time I sit down in the drivers seat. No car has ever done that before, for me." Clay Whiteley>Fullscreen
Rick Teremi says he and his partner, Michelle Leale, were among the first to pre-order in 2016. The car arrived Oct. 1, 2018, in Chicago.
"[S]pending $60k for a car sight unseen was quite the plunge."
This one's Michelle's. Rick is planning to buy one for himself next month. They will have his-and-hers both in white -- but his will have the white interior. Hers sports the black. Rick Teremi>Fullscreen
Behold "Purple Reign." Some details about the customization of the Model 3 sporting the white vegan leather interior: The vinyl wrap color is Black Rose Metallic. The 20-inch sport wheels are powder coated in gray metallic.
"I’ve had some nice cars before, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, etc., but there has never been a community amongst the owners like Tesla," says owner Scott Berland. "Sometimes it’s members argue (like a family) but it’s still a far more communal experience than any of the others." Scott Berland>Fullscreen
Rodney Bailey, at the Hudson River in Weehawken, New Jersey, credits his Model 3 "Tess" with making him a better driver "even though I thought I was pretty good prior to ownership." Rodney Bailey>Fullscreen
Notice the customized red Tesla T on the frunk, or front trunk.
"The instant torque and sporty handling really make the Model 3 a fun car to drive," says owner Allen Lau. "The functionality of the touchscreen console and Auto Pilot are just some of the features that really makes driving a pleasant experience in the Model 3." Allen Lau>Fullscreen
Gaurav Mahendru shared his picture of "Pearl," a Tesla Model 3 in Pearl White with 18-inch Aero Wheels, outside the iconic Milwaukee Art Museum.
His family got the car last September after waiting 17 months. They were among those who reserved the car before it was in production.
"We have already done 5,000 miles on it! We had a 2004 Toyota Camry before this and we were past due for an upgrade....We are so much in love with this car that we are never going back to gas cars ever again."
Aside, from the car being electric, its safety record, design and being a tech gadget "built around a computer," he feels a part of something bigger:
"The feeling of being a part of a movement!" Gaurav Mahendru>Fullscreen
Kristy Eisele says she loved her Model S experience so much, she bought a Model 3 last November in Deep Blue Metallic with 19-inch Sport wheels and black and white interior. Kristy Eisele (@razemfrazem)>Fullscreen
Alyson Vogel's car family includes two Model 3s. The second they bought on New Year's Eve, ahead of the tax credit partially expiring.
"We bought it in 4 hours from California, and they delivered it to our garage in N.Y. while we signed the paperwork in California!" Alyson Vogel>Fullscreen
Elaine Borseth, vice president of the Electric Vehicle Association of San Diego, says she's done a couple of San Diego to Maine roundtrips and a 16,000-mile trek that took her all over North America in her P85D.
"I've charged my car everywhere from Superchargers to 110 outlets at homes, businesses and hotels, RV parks, a 240 outlet on the side of an unoccupied cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (all with the owners' permission via plugshare) to my own garage." #CoastToCoastTesla>Fullscreen
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The Model 3 owner's manual tells drivers that the vehicle "detects your hands by recognizing light resistance as the steering wheel turns, or from you manually turning the steering wheel very lightly (without enough force to retake control). Engaging a turn signal or using any steering wheel button or scroll wheel also qualifies for your hands being detected."
Tretyakov said he was driving at around 62 mph when the EV hit a stationary tow truck that he didn't see beforehand. Reuters reports that he was driving within the speed limit.
Video of the incident surfaced on a state-run TV channel known as Rossiya 24, showing the inflamed car on the side of the highway. It set off two subsequent explosions.
Tesla declined to comment, however, the automaker's Vehicle Safety Report says its "vehicles are engineered to be the safest cars in the world."
During previous incidents of Tesla's cars crashing while on Autopilot, the Palo Alto-based company defended the Level 2 semi-autonomous system, which is described by the Society of Automotive Engineers as combining adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, self-parking, and the ability to automatically change lanes.
A Tesla Model 3 in Delray Beach, Florida, had Autopilot engaged in the seconds before it crashed into a semi-truck in March, killing the 50-year-old driver, federal investigators said in May. The car drove beneath the trailer in a crash that is similar to one that occurred in another part of Florida in 2016, also involving Autopilot.
In both instances, the driver died and the top of the car was sheared off.
In a separate, but just-as-alarming, case in March, Tesla began looking into reports that one of its vehicles suddenly exploded in China. Surveillance footage of the explosion out of Shanghai was posted on social media, and it seems to show a first-generation Model S bursting into flames for no apparent reason.