NHTSA initiates investigation into Tesla autopilot crashes


State vehicle safety regulators have opened a formal investigation into Tesla’s autopilot system following a series of accidents in which at least 17 people were injured and one was killed, according to documents filed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Autopilot is Tesla’s limited self-driving function that still has to be operated by a human. Since January 2018, the NHTSA announced that it had identified eleven accidents in which Tesla vehicles “encountered first-aid scenes and then encountered one or more vehicles”. The report released on Monday includes an estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles of all models built between 2014 and 2021.

Tesla shares closed 4.32% on Monday following the NHTSA’s announcement.

The formal investigation comes just months after the NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board said they were investigating the company following a crash in Texas. There have been several investigations into Tesla’s autopilot in recent months, including an investigation in March after a Model Y using the system reportedly hit a stationary police car.

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“Most incidents occurred after dark and the accident scenes that occurred included scene control measures such as first-aid vehicle lights, torches, an illuminated arrow board and road cones,” the document says. “The vehicles involved were confirmed to be engaged in either autopilot or traffic-aware cruise control as they approached the accidents.”

When activated, Tesla’s autopilot system allows drivers to maintain speed and lane centering, but does not make the vehicle safe without a driver behind the wheel. Drivers are still responsible for detecting lane obstacles and maneuvers from nearby vehicles.