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NHTSA Probe Covers Nearly All Teslas Sold Since 2014

Carmaker's Autopilot system seems to have trouble spotting parked emergency vehicles
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 16, 2021 9:35 AM CDT
NHTSA Launches Investigation of Tesla Autopilot System
This July 8, 2018, file photo shows Tesla 2018 Model 3 sedans on display outside a Tesla showroom in Littleton, Colo.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowsi, File)

(Newser) – The US government has opened a formal investigation into Tesla's Autopilot partially automated driving system, saying it has trouble spotting 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, per the AP. Of the crashes identified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as part of the investigation, 17 people were injured and one was killed. The NHTSA says it has identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on Autopilot or Traffic-Aware Cruise Control have hit vehicles at scenes where first responders have used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, or cones warning of hazards. The agency announced the action Monday in a posting on its website. The investigation covers Tesla's entire current model lineup: the Models Y, X, S, and 3, from the 2014 through 2021 model years.

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The crashes into emergency vehicles cited by NHTSA began on Jan. 22, 2018, in Culver City, Calif., when a Tesla using Autopilot struck a parked firetruck that was parked partially in the travel lanes with its lights flashing. Crews were handling another crash at the time. Since then, the agency said there was a crash in Laguna Beach, Calif., as well as ones in Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Arizona, North Carolina, Texas, Michigan, and Florida. Tesla and other manufacturers warn that drivers using such systems must be ready to intervene at all times. "The investigation will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver's engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation," NHTSA said in its investigation documents. In addition, the probe will cover object and event detection by the system, as well as where it's allowed to operate. An investigation could lead to a recall or other enforcement action by NHTSA.

(Read more Tesla stories.)

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