Tesla Autopilot under federal investigation for crashes with emergency vehicles

765,000 Tesla Models Y, 3, S and X are each part of this formal federal investigation.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
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The feds are taking a close look at Tesla Autopilot crashes.


Tesla's Autopilot system is under federal investigation. On Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it is formally looking into the safety of Tesla's Autopilot Level 2 driver-assistance functions. In particular, federal investigators say this new probe will look into Tesla crashes with parked emergency vehicles. The government agency is aware of at least 11 crashes or fires, resulting in 17 injuries, as well as one fatality. Some 765,000 cars from Tesla, including the Model Y, 3, S and X, are covered by this new investigation.

According to an Office of Defects Investigation document, NHTSA describes the core problem as "subject vehicle crashes with in-road or roadside first responders." Tesla vehicles have "encountered first responder scenes and subsequently struck one or more vehicles involved with those scenes," the preliminary report said. "The involved subject vehicles were all confirmed to have been engaged in either Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control during the approach to the crashes." The reported crashes took place between 2014 and 2021, with four of them occuring this year.

NHTSA did not immediately return Roadshow's request for additional comment. Tesla does not operate a public relations department to field requests for comment.

NHTSA and the National Traffic Safety Board have for years investigated various Tesla crashes involving the company's driver-assistance technology. The system is a Level 2 technology on the SAE's scale of autonomy, and does not provide any sort of autonomous driving technology. The National Transportation Safety Board last year spoke up about a lack of accountability for Tesla, but also regulators, including NHTSA, in the wake of high-profile fatal crashes in which drivers were apparently not in control. It also called on NHTSA to implement more regulations surrounding driver-assistance technology and self-driving cars in the wake of Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" beta.

This past June, NHTSA took its strictest stance yet on these new technologies as it mandated crash reports for self-driving cars and driver-assist systems. If any vehicle equipped with one of these types of technologies is involved in a crash, the agency will require a report from the automaker within 24 hours, plus updates with additional information over the following days.

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