Federal watchdog expands Tesla autopilot investigation

A Tesla Supercharger station is seen at a Sheetz Gas Station in Bealeton, Va., on Thursday, February 10, 2022.
Greg Nash

Federal investigators are expanding their investigation into potential safety risks of Tesla’s autopilot feature.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Thursday that it is upgrading the probe of the car feature, launched in August, to an engineering analysis, which is a more rigorous evaluation that can lead to a recall.

The agency first opened the investigation following roughly a dozen crashes between Tesla cars with autopilot engaged and parked emergency vehicles.

The expanded probe will look at a total of 16 crashes to see whether Tesla’s automated driving features “may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks by undermining the effectiveness of the driver’s supervision.”

Tesla has defended its autopilot and full self-driving features as safer than normal driving, and stresses that drivers are told to remain engaged at all times.

The NHTSA was alerted to dozens more crashes involving automated driving features after launching its initial investigation that did not involve emergency vehicles.

It whittled down a list of 191 crashes to 106, and found that in roughly half of the incidents, the drivers did not appear to have their full focus on the road.

About a quarter of those 106 accidents occurred on roads where autopilot is not meant to be used.

Tags National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA Tesla
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