The US opens an official investigation into self-driving technology

August 17, 2021 | 2 minutes read

The US federal agency in charge of road safety is opening an official investigation into Tesla’s “self-driving” Auto-pilot system. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was acting following 11 Tesla crashes since 2018 involving emergency vehicles.

Tesla vehicles in some cases, “crashed directly into the vehicles of first responders”, it mentioned. 

The investigation is said to cover roughly 765,000 Tesla cars made since 2014.

That includes those in the Model Y, Model X, Model S, and Model 3, the NHTSA said the entire current range.

Among the list of cases was one where a Tesla “ploughed into the rear” of a parked fire engine attending an accident and another in which a parked police car was struck.

The NHTSA said it was opening its preliminary investigation into “the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement” while using Autopilot.

The 11 incidents that prompted this investigation were either on Autopilot or a system called Traffic-Aware Cruise Control just before the accident and collision.

This assistive technology allows the cars to steer, accelerate and brake. 

But it has come under fire for being misleading, as it does not automatically drive the car, and drivers are required to maintain control and attention at all times.

Tesla has marketed the feature as “Autopilot” and “full self-driving”, which is just now available to a few users in the beta version.

The users have absolved themselves of responsibility at times when they are seen using mobile phones leaving the car unattended and several other examples where cars were left without a driver.

In a statement, an NHTSA spokesperson said: “No commercially available motor vehicles today are capable of driving themselves. Every available vehicle requires a human driver to be in control at all times.”

Tesla hasn’t commented as they have disbanded its public relations team in October 2020.