The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will investigate a fatal Dec. 29 car accident involving a Tesla vehicle in Los Angeles. According to a CNBC news report, NHTSA said in December that it opened an investigation into a 12th Tesla crash that may be linked to the vehicles’ advanced Autopilot driver assistance system after a Tesla Model 3 rear-ended a parked police car in Connecticut. Federal officials have not said if Autopilot was engaged in the most recent car crash, which occurred in Gardena.
Autopilot and Ongoing Investigations
According to news reports, the Tesla’s driver exited the 91 Freeway in Gardena, ran a red light and struck a 2006 Honda Civic, killing its two occupants. The two people inside the Tesla were hospitalized with injuries, which were described as non-life-threatening. Autopilot had been engaged in at least three Tesla vehicles that were involved in fatal U.S. crashes since 2016.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has also criticized Tesla for the Autopilot’s lack of safeguards. In its investigation into a 2018 crash in Culver City, NTSB officials said the Autopilot’s system design allows drivers to disengage from the task of driving. Tesla and NHTSA both advise motorists to keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention to the road at all times, even if Autopilot is engaged.
While Autopilot enables the car to steer, accelerate and brake autonomously, it doesn’t make the vehicle autonomous. Some drivers have been filmed sleeping behind the wheel of their Tesla vehicles and one driver in Northern California was even arrested after he passed out behind the wheel of a Tesla, which was still in motion. Legislators and consumer safety advocates have urged Tesla to disable Autopilot until it installs new safeguards to prevent drivers from evading system limits that could let them fall asleep.
Protecting the Rights of Victims and Families
When a car accident occurs, it is important to preserve the vehicles involved in their current crashed condition so an accident reconstruction expert can examine them for defects, malfunctions and design flaws. In cases where a crash was caused by a vehicle defect or defective vehicle design, injured victims can seek compensation for the injuries, damages and losses caused.
Families who have lost loved ones may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation as well. An experienced Los Angeles auto defect lawyer will be able to stay on top of the official investigation and help ensure that victims’ and their families’ legal rights and best interests are protected.