NHTSA investigators to probe Tesla crash with tractor-trailer

NHTSA investigators to probe Tesla crash with tractor-trailer
© Greg Nash

The U.S. highway safety agency is investigating a “violent crash” involving a Tesla car that struck a tractor-trailer and became wedged underneath it.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a statement obtained by The Hill on Tuesday that a special crash investigation team is looking into a collision that occurred in Detroit on March 11. 

“NHTSA is aware of the violent crash that occurred on March 11 in Detroit involving a Tesla and a tractor trailer. We have launched a Special Crash Investigation team to investigate the crash,” a NHTSA spokesperson said in a statement.

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The Associated Press reported on Monday that the crash left two people critically injured.

The crash occurred at 3:20 p.m. when a white Tesla sedan drove through an intersection and struck the trailer, becoming jammed beneath it. The driver and the passenger were taken to a nearby hospital, according to the wire service. 

Detroit Police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood could not say if the Tesla driver was using the car’s autopilot or “full self-driving” software, contending that the crash is “still under investigation.” Police also said that the facts of the case were preliminary and subject to change upon further investigation, according to the AP.

The Hill has reached out to Tesla for comment.

Tesla has previously said that the autopilot and “full self-driving” functions are driver-assistance systems, and that drivers must still be prepared to intervene if needed, according to the wire service. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates crashes, has also criticized Tesla for allowing the driver-assistance systems to operate on roads it can’t handle, according to the AP.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt, in a Feb. 1 letter to the Department of Transportation, encouraged the agency to establish regulations to control driver assist systems and the testing of autonomous vehicles, the AP reported.

In December 2019, NHTSA launched another investigation into a Tesla crash when a car in Los Angeles was speeding and ran a red light after exiting a freeway, then struck another vehicle, killing its two occupants.