Federal investigation launched into Tesla Autopilot-related crashes
The US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has commenced an investigation into the Tesla Autopilot system. The investigation will look into 11 Tesla car "crashes with in-road or roadside first responders" vehicles that were parked and resulted in seven instances of injury and one fatality since 2018. The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has initiated a preliminary evaluation. Here's more.
This NHTSA will investigate an estimated population of 765,000 Tesla cars including the Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y. The safety body will focus its efforts only on Tesla cars that struck one or more emergency first responder vehicles while either engaged in Autopilot or Traffic-Aware Cruise Control on their approach to the ill-fated crash sites.
In the document detailing the NHTSA investigation, the ODI wrote, "The investigation will also include examination of the contributing circumstances for the confirmed crashes." The ODI noted that most crashes took place after dark although the first responders had deployed preventive measures such as vehicle lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, and road cones for the safety of other road users.
For those unaware, Tesla's Autopilot system keeps the vehicle centered in a lane and maintains speed when it is active in its Operational Design Domain (ODD). This is not a fully autonomous driving system and the human at the wheel is expected to watch out for identifying and responding to obstacles, vehicles, and "adverse maneuvers" of other drivers.
The NHTSA investigated and cleared Tesla in the first Autopilot-related fatality in 2016. Since then, several probes have been launched into crashes where Autopilot was suspected to have played a role in the mishap. In June, the safety body directed carmakers to report incidents involving autonomous driving systems within 24 hours of being informed about them.