NHTSA Probes Latest Autopilot-related Tesla Crash

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Last Friday’s crash of a Model S in South Jordan, Utah will get the magnifying glass treatment from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency announced Wednesday it will send a team of investigators to probe why the vehicle — which the admittedly distracted driver said was in Autopilot mode at the time of impact — collided with a stopped fire truck at 60 mph.

It’s the second NHTSA investigation of an Autopilot-related collision this year.

According to local police, witnesses claim the Model S did not attempt to brake as it approached the back of the fire truck, stopped at a traffic light. The 28-year-old driver reportedly suffered a broken foot in the crash.

At the time of the daylight collision, light rain was falling and the roadway was wet.

“NHTSA will take appropriate action based on its review,” the agency said Wednesday. While the NHTSA can order a recall if it uncovers a safety defect in the course of its probe, Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system — which carries a warning for drivers to stay alert and keep their hands on the wheel — complicates the matter. Does a danger posed by misuse of a potentially fallible feature warrant a recall? We’ll have to wait and see.

At the very least, the public should know why the vehicle’s radar and camera combo didn’t recognize the approaching truck, or, if they did, why the vehicle didn’t take evasive action.

The NHTSA hasn’t yet released a preliminary report for the other recent incident — a March collision in Mountain View, California that claimed the life of an Apple employee. In the aftermath of that crash, Tesla and the National Transportation Safety Board found themselves at loggerheads. The feds later turfed Tesla from the investigation for publishing details of the crash.

A recent non-Autopilot-related crash of a Tesla Model S in Florida, which led to the deaths of two teens, is also the focus of an NHTSA probe.

Ever since the Mountain View crash, Musk and Tesla have doubled down on Autopilot safety claims, but the statistic used to illustrate the system’s life-saving abilities is attracting a growing list of detractors.

[Source: Automotive News] [Image: Tesla]

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