NHTSA to Investigate Crash Fatality Involving Tesla Autopilot

Posted by at 9:09 pm on June 30, 2016

Tesla Model SU.S. auto safety regulators opened a probe into a fatal crash involving a 2015 Tesla Model S while the driver was using the vehicle’s “Autopilot” automated driving function. It is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s first investigation into a fatal vehicle accident involving the use of automated driving systems, a technology heralded by automakers and technology firms such as Google for its potential to reduce accidents, deaths and injuries.

The crash comes as NHTSA is preparing to release guidelines for the safe deployment of self-driving cars and automated driving technologies. The guidelines are expected in July and were announced in January as part of a multi-pronged push to help automakers safely deploy the technology. Tesla reported the crash to NHTSA and told the agency that the autopilot system was activated when the accident occurred, according to the agency.

In a statement, a NHTSA spokesman said the agency’s preliminary evaluation would examine the design and performance of the Model S’ automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash. The agency hasn’t determined whether a defect exists, the spokesman said.

Preliminary reports of the May 7 crash in Williston, Fla., indicate it occurred when “a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla at an intersection on a non-controlled access highway. The driver of the Tesla, identified as Joshua Brown, died due to injuries sustained in the crash,” NHTSA’s spokesman said.

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