Now before we starting pointing fingers, we should note that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has stated that Autopilot actually works better at night than it does in the day time:
@elimelechweiss actually works best at night— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 15, 2015
This because the reflective paint and markers on the road surface offer better contrast at night for the onboard cameras to see them. So enabling Autopilot at night – given the right conditions -- isn’t exactly a “boneheaded” move as some might initially think.
However, this driver had Autopilot engaged while traveling on a winding two-lane road without a center divider. While Autopilot, which is still in beta, can technically handle this scenario, it’s not ideal and Tesla warns against enabling the feature when traveling on such roads. Tesla recommends that Autopilot’s auto-steering feature be used when traveling on divided highways where traffic is flowing in the same direction.
A friend of the driver took to the Tesla Motors Club forums to describe the circumstances behind the incident:
Just got more photos from the driver. The car was in autopilot at speed between 56-60 [MPH], the car drove off the road hit the guard rail wood posts. I questioned him how can AP drove off the road himself, he said he also [wants] to find out.
As you can see by the pictures below, the Model X struck a number of wooden fence posts which sheared off part of the passenger-side front fender. Luckily, the driver and his passenger were unharmed in the accident.
However, we must go back to the fact that the driver was using Autopilot at night (perfectly acceptable) on a two-lane backroad (not smart). And given the time of the night, one Tesla Motors Club forum member pointed out the obvious. Forum member Eclectic writes:
I know the area where the accident is said to have happened and it's not a place for AP use at 2 AM. There are all sorts of animals that cross roads in the area, from deer to antelope to even elk. Whatever the person was doing at 2AM, he or she made a series of bad calls. I couldn't imagine using AP on I90 under those conditions, let alone a county road in farm/game country.
We have the feeling that Elon Musk and Tesla Motors would agree with the assessment.