Tesla Autopilot Investigated by Feds as Cause of Driver Deaths

23-tesla-model-x-2018-exterior--grey--rear-angle.jpg Tesla Model X | photo by Christian Lantry

Electrification and autonomous driving are the largest transformations happening in the auto industry. It’s hard to argue that Tesla is leading on both accounts, but it’s the latter of the two that has put the automaker under the microscope by U.S. safety regulators. According to Reuters, Tesla is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a series of deadly crashes related to its Autopilot driver-assistance system. 

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NHTSA has opened 30 investigations as part of a probe into 10 Tesla-related deaths that have occurred since 2016. The agency confirmed that Autopilot was engaged in at least three vehicles involved in the crashes, but also noted three more did not involve the driver-assist system. Out of 28 previous investigations into the matter, 24 are still pending. In one of those cases, Autopilot use was not confirmed. 

Two reports have since been released by NHTSA related to Autopilot, including a high-profile 2016 crash involving a Model S where a collision with a semitrailer led to the driver’s death. Autopilot was determined to be engaged when the crash occurred. 

Tesla’s Autopilot dates back to 2014 and can be found in all of its vehicles, including the Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y. The Autopilot system allows the vehicle to automatically steer, accelerate and brake in its lane. Despite its name, however, the system is not yet fully autonomous, requiring drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and stay focused on the road. Tesla vehicles also come with standard safety features that alert drivers to their surroundings, including side collision warning, front collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

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