Story at a glance
- The bulk of the investigations appear to involve the electric car maker’s Autopilot — or advanced driver-assistance system — feature.
- The latest NHTSA investigation kicked off Wednesday, when a 22-year-old man driving a Tesla Model Y with the car’s Autopilot on crashed into the back of a Michigan State trooper’s vehicle.
- All new Tesla vehicles come standard with Autopilot features. Tesla says the system does not make the car autonomous.
U.S. safety regulators are actively investigating nearly two dozen car crashes involving Tesla vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Thursday confirmed it has opened 27 total investigations into car accidents involving Tesla vehicles, 23 of which remain active. The safety agency has completed four investigations and published the results.
The bulk of the investigations appear to involve the electric car maker’s Autopilot — or advanced driver-assistance system — feature. In July, NHTSA said its Special Crash Investigation unit had investigated “19 crashes involving Tesla vehicles where it was believed some form of advanced driver assistance system was engaged at the time of the incident,” according to Reuters.
The agency’s special crash unit typically investigates more than 100 crashes each year and focuses on emerging technologies such as alternative fueled vehicles, child restraint systems, adaptive controls and potential safety defects. Tesla’s Autopilot mode has been scrutinized by the agency over the past several years. The NHTSA has investigated multiple fatal crashes involving Autopilot and concluded last year the system was one of the likely causes of a deadly 2018 crash.
NHTSA officials Thursday did not specify how many of the open investigations currently include incidents involving the vehicle’s Autopilot mode.
The latest NHTSA investigation kicked off Wednesday, when a 22-year-old man driving a Tesla Model Y using the car’s Autopilot crashed into the back of a Michigan State trooper’s vehicle near Lansing. Police at the time were pulled over with emergency lights flashing as they investigated a crash between a separate vehicle and a deer. There were no injuries, and the driver was issued citations for failure to move over and driving with a suspended license.
The agency is also investigating a Tesla crash that happened in Detroit last week, although local law enforcement officials said they don’t believe the Autopilot feature was engaged at the time of that crash. Officials are also working to determine if Autopilot was in use during a crash in Houston last month.
All new Tesla vehicles come standard with Autopilot features that allow the cars to brake, accelerate and steer automatically, among other capabilities. Tesla says, however, the feature does not make the car autonomous and still requires a driver present with their hands on the wheel.
Meanwhile, Tesla recently expanded a beta version of its “full self-driving” software to about 2,000 owners. The software enables the vehicles to park themselves and automatically stop at stop signs and traffic lights, among other features.
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