Tesla Autopilot’s Role in Deadly Vehicle Crash Is Probed by Safety Regulators

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has disclosed it is investigating more than 30 incidents in which a Tesla vehicle suspected to be using Autopilot was involved in a serious crash.



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U.S. auto-safety regulators have opened a special crash investigation into a fatal wreck involving a Tesla Inc. vehicle that has left three people dead.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration disclosed the probe Wednesday, identifying the vehicle as a 2022 Tesla Model S. It added the incident to a list of auto crashes it is investigating that are potentially linked to semiautonomous driving features.

The regulatory agency has disclosed it is investigating more than 30 incidents in which a Tesla vehicle suspected to be using Autopilot was involved in a serious crash. Some of the other Tesla-vehicle crashes on the list also resulted in fatalities, NHTSA’s records show.

Tesla didn’t immediately return a request for comment. The electric-vehicle maker has long said that driving with Autopilot engaged is safer than doing so without it.

A NHTSA spokesperson Wednesday declined to comment further on the agency’s investigation or confirm details of the incident that initiated the latest probe.

Earlier this month, police in Newport Beach, Calif., responded to a fatal crash involving a 2022 Tesla Model S that struck a curb and rammed into construction equipment located on a road, a police-department spokeswoman said.

Officers arrived and discovered three deceased passengers in the vehicle, the spokeswoman said. Three construction workers suffered minor non-life-threatening injuries and were treated at a nearby hospital, she added. The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the Autopilot was engaged.

In recent years, auto makers have rolled out a range of new automated-driving features marketed to drivers as a way to ease the burden of operating a vehicle, particularly for long periods.

Many of these so-called advanced driver assistance systems still require the driver to remain engaged and ready to take over when needed, but they aren’t tightly regulated in the U.S. and vary widely depending on the manufacturer.

This newest NHTSA probe is the latest in the agency’s effort to examine Tesla’s Autopilot, a feature the EV maker says is designed to help drivers with tasks such as steering and keeping a safe distance from other vehicles on the road. Tesla instructs drivers using the system to pay attention to the road and to keep their hands on the wheel.

Last fall, the agency said it was opening a separate investigation into the system itself, citing nearly a dozen crashes involving Tesla vehicles that crashed into first responder vehicles.

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Appeared in the May 19, 2022, print edition as ‘Deadly Tesla Crash Brings Federal Inquiry.’

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