The U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a probe into Tesla’s Autopilot assisted driving software, according to a posting on its website. The NHTSA investigation will cover Tesla Models Y, X, S, and 3 vehicles released from 2014 through 2021.
The investigation was driven by 11 incidents, including 17 injuries and one death in which Tesla vehicles using the company’s Autopilot features have crashed into static emergency vehicles. Most of these incidents occurred after dark, with the software ignoring scene control measures, including warning lights, flares, cones, and an illuminated arrow board.
Will the incidents lead to any new laws is anything but a guarantee.
The regulator 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 filing.
The news comes after several high-profile crashes, some of which ended in deaths, involving Teslas that were reportedly on Autopilot during the moments leading up to the crash.
Since 2018 alone, according to the announcement, the NHTSA has recorded 11 crashes involving Teslas on Autopilot hitting service vehicles that had their sirens turned on or were using flares to warn oncoming drivers.
According to the Associated Press, the regulators and safety experts are examining Tesla vehicles sold in the US since 2014, with 765,000 vehicles in total.
While the National Transportation Safety Board has no power to enforce its rules, it has suggested the NHTSA to require Tesla to improve its driver monitoring system specifically. However, Tesla turned ignored the recommendations last year, as The Verge reported at the time.
As recent investigations have shown, the company’s Autopilot system can trick people into assuming somebody is in the driver’s seat. As a result, the system has been wrongly utilized for reckless videos posted online on numerous events.
The Autopilot feature has been scrutinized for several years now, but regulatory bodies have yet to introduce laws that would direct Tesla’s actions in substantial ways.