NHTSA records ‘auto-pilot’ crash into state trooper as 12th for Tesla



US auto safety regulators said on Wednesday they had identified a 12th crash involving Tesla vehicles that were using advanced driver-assistance systems in incidents involving emergency vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Aug. 16 said it had opened a formal safety probe into Tesla driver assistance system Autopilot after 11 crashes.

The 12th occurred in Orlando on Saturday, NHTSA said. The agency sent Tesla an 11-page letter with questions, dated Tuesday, as part of its investigation.

Tesla’s Autopilot handles some driving tasks and allows drivers to keep their hands off the wheel for extended periods. Tesla says Autopilot enables vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within their lane.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

On Saturday, the Florida Highway Patrol said a Florida trooper who had stopped to assist a disabled motorist on a major highway was struck by a Tesla.

The Florida Highway Patrol said a Tesla in Autopilot model struck the patrol car. “Trooper was outside of car and extremely lucky to have not been struck,” the agency said in a tweet.

Elon Musk pointing and smiling
Tesla chief Elon Musk admitted that the company’s self-driving software is “not great.”
AFP via Getty Images

The latest crash happened just days after Tesla chief Elon Musk admitted that the electric-vehicle firm’s new self-driving software was “not great.”

NHTSA said earlier it had reports of 17 injuries and one death in the prior 11 crashes, including the December 2019 crash of a Tesla Model 3 that left a passenger dead after the vehicle collided with a parked fire truck in Indiana.

Tesla in July introduced an option for some customers to subscribe to its advanced driver assistance software, dubbed “Full Self-Driving capability.” Tesla says the current features “do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

Among the questions NHTSA wants Tesla to answer is the “date and mileage at which the ‘Full Self Driving’ (FSD) option was enabled” for all vehicles along with all consumer complaints, field reports, crash reports and lawsuits.

A red Tesla vehicle on display
NHTSA said earlier it had reports of 17 injuries and one death in 11 prior crashes involving auto-pilot, including the December 2019 crash of a Tesla Model 3 that left a passenger dead.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

NHTSA also wants Tesla to explain its “methods and technologies used to prevent subject system usage outside” the operational design domain.

NHTSA also asked Tesla to explain “testing and validation required prior to the release of the subject system or an in-field update to the subject system, including hardware and software components of such systems.”

In addition, NHTSA asked Tesla to disclose any modifications or changes that “may be incorporated into vehicle production or pushed to subject vehicles in the field within the next 120 days.”

Tesla must respond to NHTSA’s questions by Oct. 22, it said.


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