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Tesla’s Autopilot System Faces US Investigation After Collisions With Parked Emergency Vehicles

NHTSA says it will examine “contributing circumstances” to the crashes, as well as similar crashes

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Divya Dhadd
Divya Dhadd
Journalist

UNITED STATES: The US federal agency in charge of road safety has opened a formal investigation into Tesla’s “self-driving” system known as Autopilot after a series of collisions with parked emergency vehicles.

The investigation covers 765,000 vehicles, almost everything that Tesla has sold in the US since the start of the 2014 model year, which includes those in the Model Y, Model X, Model S and Model 3, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said – the entire current range. As part of the investigation, the crashes identified by NHTSA had 17 people injured and one killed.

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NHTSA says it has identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control have crashed directly into the vehicles of first responders who used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards. The agency announced the action on Monday in a posting on its website. 

“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 agency said.

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Autopilot has frequently been misused by Tesla drivers, who have been caught driving drunk or even riding in the back seat while a car rolled down a California highway.

The assistive technology allows the car to automatically steer, accelerate and brake.

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But it has come under fire for being misleading, as it does not automatically drive the car and drivers are required to maintain control and attention at all times.

In the past, users have abused the system frequently, with examples ranging from using their phones while the car drives unattended to switching car seats and leaving no driver at the wheel.

Among the list of cases was one where a Tesla “ploughed into the rear” of a parked fire engine attending an accident and another in which a parked police car was struck. A message was left early on Monday seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations office. Earlier this month Tesla tweeted that “a Tesla with Autopilot engaged experienced 0.2 accidents per million miles driven, while the US average was 9x higher”.

Also Read: Elon Musk’s Tesla Officially Enters India

A message was left early on Monday seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations office. Earlier this month Tesla tweeted that “a Tesla with Autopilot engaged experienced 0.2 accidents per million miles driven, while the US average was 9x higher”.

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