The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a formal investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot after a series of collisions with parked emergency vehicles. According to the Associated Press, the investigation covers 765,000 vehicles fitted with a partially automated driver-assist system, including almost every vehicle that Tesla has sold in the United States since the beginning of the 2014 model year. Out of the crashes identified by NHTSA as part of the investigation, 17 people were injured and one was killed.
Investigation Encompasses all Teslas
NHTSA has identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which Tesla vehicles on Autopilot (or Traffic-Aware Cruise Control) have hit vehicles at scenes where first responders have used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, or cones warning of hazards. The agency posted this action on Aug. 16 on its website.
AP says this probe is another sign that NHTSA under President Joe Biden is taking a stricter stance on automated vehicle safety than previous administrations. The investigation covers Tesla’s current model lineup, the Models Y, X, S, and three from 2014 through 2021 model years.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which has also investigated some of the Tesla crashes dating to 2016, has recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit Autopilot’s use to areas where it can safely operate. The NTSB also recommended that NHTSA require Tesla to have a better system to ensure drivers pay attention. So far, NHTSA has not taken action on any of these recommendations. However, NTSB officials have said NHTSA’s most recent step to launch this investigation is a “positive step forward for safety.” The investigation could lead to a recall or other enforcement action by NHTSA.
A Necessary Probe
Our top-rated auto defect lawyers have said for a long time that Tesla has put technology on the market that is flawed and could be misused in a way that could lead to car accidents, injuries, and deaths. Autopilot is often misused by drivers caught driving drunk or even riding in the back seat on California’s freeways.
Tesla has essentially tried to dodge responsibility by passing the blame to drivers, saying they must be vigilant and keep their hands on the wheel at all times. We hope this investigation results in an outcome that makes these vehicles safer for consumers and for others on the roadway who may be endangered by it.