US Starts Probe of Tesla’s Autopilot After a Series of Crashes

Brussels, Belgium - January 13, 2017: Luxurious interior on a Tesla Model X P90D full electric luxury crossover SUV car with a large touch screen and dashboard screen.
Sjoerd van der Wal / Getty Images

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made its investigation into Tesla’s autopilot crashes public this week.

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Since January 2018, the Office of Defects Investigation has identified numerous crashes in which Tesla models of various configurations have encountered first responder scenes and subsequently struck one or more vehicles involved with those scenes, the agency said in its probe.

According to the agency’s investigation, the incidents include 11 crashes and fires, 17 injuries and one fatality. The agency said it would investigate 765,000 vehicles of Tesla Model Y, Model X, Model S and Model 3.

Most incidents took place after dark and the crash scenes encountered included scene control measures such as first responder vehicle lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, and road cones. The involved subject vehicles were all confirmed to have been engaged in either autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control during the approach to the crashes, the agency added.

The investigation aims to assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation.

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Tesla shares fell following the announcement and were down 4.3% as of writing.

The investigation is the broadest look yet at autopilot and at potential flaws that could make it and the Teslas that operate on it dangerous, according to The New York Times. Depending on its findings, the safety agency could force Tesla to recall cars and make changes to the system, The New York Times adds. It also has the authority to force automakers to add safety devices and features to their cars, such as when it required rearview cameras and airbags.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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