NHTSA to Investigate Deadly Accident Involving Tesla Model S in California

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【Summary】An accident involving a Tesla Model S and a Honda Civic left two passengers dead took place on December 29 and will be investigated by the federal government.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Feb 10, 2020 6:00 AM PT
NHTSA to Investigate Deadly Accident Involving Tesla Model S in California

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) will investigate an accident involving a Tesla Model S and a Honda Civic. The accident took place on December 29 in Gardena, California. Two passengers – a man and a woman – in the Civic died at the scene of the accident. The two passengers in the Model S – a man and a woman – were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, claims The Detroit News.

Was Autopilot The Issue?

According to the outlet, spokesman Sean Rushton would not state whether Autopilot was engaged in the Model S when the accident occurred. The report claims that the model S ran a red light and slammed into a Civic at an intersection.

The NHTSA released a statement that stated it would be assigning its special crash investigation team to inspect the vehicle and the scene of the accident. The agency's special crash investigation team has inspected 13 different crashes involving Tesla's electric vehicles that they believed involved the automaker's Autopilot system. Out of the 13 crashes that the agency's team has investigated, results have been published on two of them while results are still pending for the other 10 incidents.

This isn't the first accident involving a Tesla. The Detroit News claims that another incident involving a Tesla occurred in Indiana recently. The electric vehicle rear-ended a fire truck that was parked alongside Interstate 70. The driver was seriously injured after the accident, while the passenger was pronounced dead at the hospital. The driver in that incident didn't remember if Autopilot was engaged at the time of the incident, but told police that he regularly used the semi-autonomous system.

NHTSA's Warnings About Autopilot

Tesla's Autopilot system has come under fire from the NHTSA. Previously, the government agency said the system "permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task." Both Tesla and the NHTSA have advised owners and consumers that advanced driver-assist systems like Tesla's Autopilot aren't autonomous. Instead, they require drivers to pay close attention to the road at all time. But some accidents, including fatal ones, have put the blame on the automaker's Autopilot system. In one of the NHTSA's crash reports, the agency called the system "automation complacency."

Tesla will offer Full Self Driving capability in the near future. On the automaker's website, the company claims that the feature is coming later this year and is an extra $7,000 on the Model S. With the box ticked, the Model S will be able to navigate on Autopilot on its own, change lanes on its own, park on its own, and be summoned to your location from a parking lot on its own. Things like recognizing and responding to traffic lights and traffic signs and automatic driving in urban areas will come at a later date.

With the recent incidents involving Teslas, we wouldn't be surprised to see Tesla postpone the release of Full Self Driving capability from its original release date in the middle of 2020 to something a little further out.

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