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US Investigating Tesla Autopilot Accidents

FILE - A Tesla Model X is on display at Telsa Inc's store in Frankfurt, Germany, Sept. 28, 2018.
FILE - A Tesla Model X is on display at Telsa Inc's store in Frankfurt, Germany, Sept. 28, 2018.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) has opened an investigation into auto manufacturer Tesla’s autopilot system after 11 accidents have been reported since 2018, resulting in 17 injuries and one death.

In a report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said investigators found that in each of the accidents, various Tesla models encountered first responder scenes and “subsequently struck one or more vehicles involved with those scenes.”

The report said most of the incidents took place after dark, and each of the crash scenes involved scene control measures such as first responder vehicle lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, and road cones. In each case, the Teslas were confirmed to have been engaged in either autopilot or traffic-aware cruise control during the approach to the crashes.

The report explains that Tesla’s autopilot system — the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) — allows the vehicle to maintain its speed and lane centering. With the ADAS engaged, the driver still holds primary responsibility for identifying obstacles in the roadway or “adverse maneuvers by neighboring vehicles.”

The report says the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has opened an autopilot systems investigation into Tesla models Y, X, S and 3 from the years 2014 to 2021. It will involve an estimated 765,000 vehicles.

The agency said it would look at how autopilot ensures that Tesla drivers are paying attention to the road. The company’s owners’ manuals instruct drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel, but autopilot continues operating even if drivers only occasionally tap the wheel.

Some of the information in this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

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