Jun 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

U.S. auto regulator expands Tesla emergency-scene crashes probe

 Tesla Model Y and Model 3 vehicles at a dock in Shanghai, China, in May 2022.

Tesla Model Y and Model 3 vehicles at a dock in Shanghai, China, in May 2022. Photo: Shen Chunchen/VCG via Getty Image

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced in a notice Thursday that it upgraded its investigation into Tesla vehicles striking stopped emergency vehicles while using the company's Autopilot feature.

Why it matters: NHTSA's preliminary probe that it opened in August will now be expanded to an engineering analysis, which is a required step before the regulator decides to issue a recall of the vehicles or the software behind the advanced driver assistance system.

  • The investigation will also be expanded to encompass an estimated 830,000 Tesla vehicles, up from around 765,000 cars.

What they're saying: NHTSA said the expansion was meant "to extend the existing crash analysis, evaluate additional data sets, perform vehicle evaluations, and to explore the degree to which Autopilot and associated Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks by undermining the effectiveness of the driver’s supervision."

  • It said it has received 14 reports of crashes involving Tesla vehicles and in-road or roadside first responders vehicles, resulting in at least one fatality and 15 injuries.

The big picture: NHTSA has recently opened several different investigation into the electric vehicle manufacture's driving features, including one that allows drivers play video games on the front-center touch screen while the car is in motion.

  • It's also investigating unexpected braking in some Tesla vehicles while in autopilot and driving at highway speeds.
  • Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said he is prepared to cut staff by about 10%, citing a "super bad feeling" about the economy.

Go deeper: More than 750 Tesla drivers have complained of unexpected braking

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