US probing Autopilot problems on 765,000 Tesla vehicles

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Following a spate of crashes with parked emergency vehicles, the US government has launched a formal investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot partially automated driving technology. 

The probe encompasses practically all of Tesla’s vehicles sold in the United States from the start of the 2014 model year. 17 people were injured, and one person was killed in the crashes identified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as part of the investigation. 

Since 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified 11 crashes in which Teslas operating on Autopilot or Traffic-Aware Cruise Control collided with other vehicles at locations where first responders had used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, or cones to warn of hazards. The agency announced the action Monday in a posting on its website.

The investigation indicates that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under President Joe Biden is taking a harsher stance on automated vehicle safety jobs than prior administrations. Previously, the FDA was hesitant to regulate the new technology because it feared it would stifle the use of potentially life-saving equipment. The investigation covers Tesla’s current model lineup, the Models Y, X, S, and 3 from the 2014 through 2021 model years. 

The National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB), which has also looked at some of the Tesla crashes since 2016, has advised NHTSA and Tesla to limit Autopilot’s use to regions where it can be used safely. The NTSB also advised that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compel Tesla to have a better mechanism to ensure that drivers pay attention.

None of the recommendations has been implemented by the NHTSA.  The NTSB has no enforcement powers and can only make recommendations to other federal agencies. “Today’s action by NHTSA is a positive step forward for safety,” NTSB Chair Jennifer L. Homendy said in a statement Monday. 

Source: Marshalltown Times-Republican 

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