The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has confirmed that it has opened 27 investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles, 23 of which remain active and at least three of the crashes occurred in recent weeks. According to a Reuters news report, NHTSA confirmed that it will send a team to investigate a recent Tesla crash in the Houston area in addition to teams sent out to probe two crashes in Michigan. That includes one crash involving a Tesla suspected of being in Autopilot mode when it struck a parked Michigan State Police patrol car.
Several Tesla Crashes Being Probed
NHTSA said in July that its Special Crash Investigations team had looked into 19 crashes involving Tesla vehicles where it was believed some form of the advanced driver assistance system was engaged at the time of the incident. Michigan State Police said a parked patrol car was struck by a Tesla vehicle that was apparently in Autopilot mode while investigating a traffic crash near Lansing on Interstate-96. No one was injured and the 22-year-old Tesla driver was issued traffic citations.
Investigators are also looking into a “violent” March 11 crash in Detroit where a Tesla became wedged under a tractor-trailer, leaving one passenger in critical condition. In that case, police didn’t believe Autopilot was in use. However, the Autopilot feature was operating in at least three Tesla vehicles involved in fatal U.S. crashes since 2016. The automaker advised drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention while using Autopilot.
NHTSA’s Special Crash Investigation team typically looks at more than 100 crashes a year with a focus on emerging technologies. In recent years, the team has looked at alternative fueled vehicles, child restraint systems, adaptive controls, safety belts, vehicle-pedestrian interactions and potential vehicle safety defects.
NHTSA officials also say they’ve been briefed on Tesla’s “full self-driving” software and that it will monitor the new technology closely. NHTSA also clarified that the system does not make Tesla fully automated. Even the most advanced vehicle technologies available for purchase today provide driver assistance and require a fully alert human driver at all times driving and monitoring the surrounding environment.
The Issue with Autopilot
As auto defect attorneys, we are extremely concerned about the safety of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle technology. It appears that tech companies and automakers are eager to get these vehicles out on the road. But, in no way, have they been diligently tested. There are still several glitches that need to be fixed. The public should not be used as test subjects. Public safety should always come first.