Federal officials are investigating two fatal Tesla crashes in Florida, which occurred over the space of one week. According to a Reuters news report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are sending teams to look into two crashes. One occurred on Feb. 24 involving a Tesla Model S, which killed the driver and caused a massive fire. The other occurred March 1 in Delray Beach when a 2018 Model 3 crashed into a semi-trailer.
Recent Tesla Crashes
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that the 2016 Tesla Model S caught fire and burned its 48-year-old driver beyond recognition. The Tesla battery repeatedly caught fire even after being transported to a towing facility. NHTSA and the NTSB are investigating a number of crashes since 2017 that focus on two primary issues – the role of the Autopilot, Tesla’s driver assistance technology and batteries reigniting after vehicle crashes.
In the Model 3 crash, it is still not known if Autopilot was engaged. The report said the Tesla struck a tractor-trailer and roof was sheared off as it passed underneath the trailer and stopped three-tenths of a mile south of the collision. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
Tesla advises drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel even when Autopilot is engaged and say they must be ready to take over at a moment’s notice. These are not the only incidents that are being probed. In January 2018, a Tesla vehicle on Autopilot crashed into a fire truck in Culver City. And in May 2018, a Tesla on Autopilot crashed. In May 2018, a Tesla accident in Florida killed two teens and injured another.
A Dangerous Feature
In 2017, NTSB officials said Tesla lacked “proper safeguards” and allowed the driver to “use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed,” and that Autopilot gives drivers far too much leeway and diverts their attention. Earlier this week a driver was seen sleeping while driving his Tesla on Autopilot at 75 mph down a busy Los Angeles freeway.
Our auto defect attorneys have maintained that Tesla hasn’t done enough to communicate to drivers that their semi-automated driver assist feature is not sophisticated enough for complete reliance. Tesla should stop calling it Autopilot because that name is extremely misleading to drivers who believe they can indulge in other activities while the vehicle is on Autopilot. It encourages them to not pay attention to the roadway, which is a dangerous behavior that puts others on the roadway in grave danger.