Tesla Hit with Safety Probe Over Autopilot System

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A pattern of accidents over the past three years has necessitated investigation.

Certain models of Tesla-made electronic vehicles possess a driver assistance system known as Autopilot. The Autopilot system handles certain minor aspects of the driving process, including keeping the car steady on a straightaway. This, in theory, allows the driver to remove their hands from the wheel for a while. However, according to statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, since 2018 there have been 11 instances of car crashes involving Tesla vehicles utilizing the Autopilot system. As of today, an investigation has officially been launched.

According to the NHTSA’s data, there have been at least 11 incidents wherein Tesla vehicles “have encountered first responder scenes and subsequently struck one or more vehicles involved with those scenes.”

“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 NHTSA said in preliminary investigation documentation.

The NHTSA will be conducting a probe of approximately 765,000 Tesla vehicles. The investigation “will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation,” according to the probe documentation.

Back in June, the NHTSA conducted a smaller-scale investigation on a series of 30 Tesla crashes dating back to 2016. The NHTSA has stressed that “no commercially available motor vehicles today are capable of driving themselves… Certain advanced driving assistance features can promote safety by helping drivers avoid crashes and mitigate the severity of crashes that occur, but as with all technologies and equipment on motor vehicles, drivers must use them correctly and responsibly.”

Tesla has not responded to the announcement of the probe as of writing. Back in 2020, the company’s director of autonomous driving technology, Andrej Karpathy, conceded that the Autopilot system has difficulty recognizing whether an emergency vehicle’s flashers are on or not.

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