Tesla driver blames self-driving mode for 8-vehicle crash on Bay Bridge

The driver of a 2021 Tesla Model S involved in an eight-vehicle crash Thanksgiving Day on the Bay Bridge told police he was in Full-Self Driving mode, which had malfunctioned, according to a CHP report obtained by Reuters. 

The Nov. 24 crash on Interstate-80 near Treasure Island in San Francisco resulted in two children suffering minor injuries and lengthy delays on the bridge as families tried to get to their family gatherings.

Even though the Tesla driver told police the FSD malfunctioned, the California Highway Patrol could not determine if the software was in operation or if his statement was accurate, according to the report which was made public after a Reuters request.

The police report said the Tesla driver made an unsafe lane change and was slowing to a stop, which led to another vehicle hitting it, causing a chain reaction of additional crashes. Citizen App video of the scene shows cars piled on top of each other on the bottom deck of the bridge. 

The police report also stated that if the self-driving mode malfunctioned, the driver should have manually taken control of the car. 

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

On the day of the pile-up, Shayna Kelly of San Francisco told KTVU that she saw the Tesla abruptly swerving.

"He just made a sudden stop," she said. "At that point there was nowhere to go."

Her young son, Kelvaughn Kelly, added: "One car almost flew over us."

National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy has questioned Tesla's marketing the feature as "full self-driving," when it is incapable of that and said Tesla must do more to ensure people do not misuse the feature.

Chief Executive Elon Musk has touted Tesla's full-driving software as a potential financial boon for the world's biggest electric car maker. But Tesla's advanced driver assistance systems - and Musk's claims about them - face growing legal, regulatory and public scrutiny.

Tesla also emphasizes that "all Tesla vehicles require active driver supervision and are not autonomous."

Reuters reports that Tesla sells the $15,000 FSD software as an ad-on, which enables its vehicles to change lanes and park autonomously. That complements its standard "Autopilot" feature, which enables cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes without driver intervention.

Regardless of the technology, those who were there on the Bay Bridge said it was apparent something went wrong that day. 

To Ron Streeter, it doesn't really matter if it was human or technological error. It was just plain scary. 

"I thought I was a goner," Streeter told KTVU after the pileup. "You see something like that coming at you at full speed, I thought this was it."

KTVU's Brooks Jarosz contributed to this report.