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Federal Officials Asks Tesla for Details About How Its Autopilot Detects Parked Emergency Vehicles


The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which recently announced that it is investigating Tesla’s Autopilot system, has asked the automaker for detailed information on how the driver-assist system responds to emergency vehicles parked on highways. According to an Associated Press news report, the federal agency made the detailed request in an 11-page letter sent to Tesla that was dated Aug. 31.

Ongoing Autopilot Investigation

The letter is part of a wide-ranging investigation into how the company’s partially automated driving system behaves when first responder vehicles are parked while crews deal with crashes or other hazards. NHTSA wants to know how Tesla vehicles detect a crash scene including flashing lights, road flares, reflective vests worn by those responding to a crash and other vehicles parked on the road.

NHTSA is also asking for details about how Autopilot responds to low light conditions, what actions it takes if emergency vehicles are present and how it warns drivers. The agency has added a 12th crash to its investigation in which a Tesla on Autopilot struck a parked Florida Highway Patrol cruiser on Aug. 28 on an interstate highway near downtown Orlando. In the crashes that are under investigation at least 17 people were injured and one was killed.

NHTSA announced this investigation into Autopilot as well as Traffic-Aware Cruise Control after a series of crashes involving emergency vehicles since 2018. The probe covers 765,000 vehicles from the 2014 to 2021 model years. Because drivers have also been caught driving drunk or driving while asleep while misusing Autopilot, NHTSA is asking Tesla for details on how it makes sure drivers are paying attention. The agency also wants all consumer complaints, lawsuits and arbitration cases involving Autopilot and it wants to know where the system can operate.

Safety is Key

While Tesla has tried to protect itself by saying that it always warns drivers to be ready to intervene at any time, the automaker continues to market these vehicles with terms such as “Autopilot” and “Full Self Driving” misleading consumers into believing that it is an autonomous feature. We hope this investigation into the safety of the Autopilot and other semi-automated systems is thorough and uncovers any problems that may be putting people’s lives in danger.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident involving a defective auto, you may be able to seek compensation for the injuries, damages and losses you suffer. An experienced auto defect lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.

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California Personal Injury Blog