Tesla Autopilot crashes with emergency vehicles being investigated in the US

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a preliminary investigation into Tesla's Autopilot assisted driving system.

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Derek Fung
Derek Fung

Tesla’s Autopilot system is under scrutiny again, this time after allegedly guiding a number of cars into parked emergency vehicles.

The investigation was started on Friday with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) citing 11 known crashes since 2018 with emergency vehicles when Tesla Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control was active.

As a result of these accidents 17 people were injured and one died.

According to NHTSA “most incidents took place after dark and the crash scenes encountered included scene control measures such as first  responder vehicle lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, and road cones”.

The organisation’s preliminary evaluation will cover all Tesla Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Model Y cars made between 2014 and 2021.

The NHTSA will investigate “the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce  the driver’s engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation”, as well as the “contributing circumstances” for these crashes and similar accidents. 

When its preliminary investigation is complete, the agency will need to decide if it will proceed with a full investigation, which may lead to a recall and Tesla being forced to make changes to its Autopilot system. 

Since June this year, NHTSA has required automakers to report all accidents where advanced driver-assistance (ADAS) systems were in use during or immediately before the crash. 

The agency had previously shown a light touch with ADAS systems for fear of stifling innovation in the field. 

An agency spokesperson told Automotive News, “NHTSA reminds the public that no commercially available motor vehicles today are capable of driving themselves.

“Every available vehicle requires a human driver to be in control at all times, and all state laws hold human drivers responsible for operation of their vehicles.”

This isn’t the first time Tesla’s Autopilot system has been probed by US authorities, with at least 30 investigations opened in the past. 

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Derek Fung
Derek Fung
Derek Fung is a Journalist at CarExpert.
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