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Troopers: Tesla on ‘autopilot’ strikes Nash deputy’s car

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ZEBULON — A motorist watching a movie in a car smashed into a stopped Nash County Sheriff’s Office cruiser early Wednesday, according to authorities.

Devainder Goli of Raleigh faces charges of failure to move over for an emergency vehicle and watching television while driving a vehicle.

Goli drove his Tesla in autopilot mode while watching a movie on his smartphone, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol. Autopilot is a driver assistance feature similar to enhanced cruise control. A Tesla equipped with the technology isn’t equivalent to a fully self-driving car. 

A deputy and state trooper were knocked to the ground but weren’t injured, according to a Highway Patrol dispatcher.

Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said crashes like this demonstrate the importance of North Carolina’s move-over law. 

“This could have been much worse,” Stone said. “God was watching over our people.”

The wreck occurred after midnight on U.S. 64 near mile marker 440 east of Zebulon near the Nash-Franklin county line. A deputy and a state trooper were responding to a previous collision when Goli’s vehicle struck the deputy’s cruiser, sending it crashing into the trooper’s vehicle.

Goli, a doctor, is an emergency medicine specialist associated with several hospitals in the region, according to Halifax Regional Medical Center.

N.C. General Statute 120-136.1 states that it’s unlawful to “drive any motor vehicle on a public street while viewing any television, computer or video player that is located at any point forward of the back of the driver’s seat, or that is visible to the driver while operating the vehicle.”