NHTSA Probes Latest Autopilot-related Tesla Crash

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Last Friday’s crash of a Model S in South Jordan, Utah will get the magnifying glass treatment from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency announced Wednesday it will send a team of investigators to probe why the vehicle — which the admittedly distracted driver said was in Autopilot mode at the time of impact — collided with a stopped fire truck at 60 mph.

It’s the second NHTSA investigation of an Autopilot-related collision this year.

According to local police, witnesses claim the Model S did not attempt to brake as it approached the back of the fire truck, stopped at a traffic light. The 28-year-old driver reportedly suffered a broken foot in the crash.

At the time of the daylight collision, light rain was falling and the roadway was wet.

“NHTSA will take appropriate action based on its review,” the agency said Wednesday. While the NHTSA can order a recall if it uncovers a safety defect in the course of its probe, Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system — which carries a warning for drivers to stay alert and keep their hands on the wheel — complicates the matter. Does a danger posed by misuse of a potentially fallible feature warrant a recall? We’ll have to wait and see.

At the very least, the public should know why the vehicle’s radar and camera combo didn’t recognize the approaching truck, or, if they did, why the vehicle didn’t take evasive action.

The NHTSA hasn’t yet released a preliminary report for the other recent incident — a March collision in Mountain View, California that claimed the life of an Apple employee. In the aftermath of that crash, Tesla and the National Transportation Safety Board found themselves at loggerheads. The feds later turfed Tesla from the investigation for publishing details of the crash.

A recent non-Autopilot-related crash of a Tesla Model S in Florida, which led to the deaths of two teens, is also the focus of an NHTSA probe.

Ever since the Mountain View crash, Musk and Tesla have doubled down on Autopilot safety claims, but the statistic used to illustrate the system’s life-saving abilities is attracting a growing list of detractors.

[Source: Automotive News] [Image: Tesla]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Join the conversation
10 of 41 comments
  • Incautious Incautious on May 17, 2018

    This just in: Tesla technicians recovered data from the vehicle and found that the driver repeatedly cancelled and then re-engaged features of Autopilot. The vehicle registered more than a dozen instances of her hands being off the steering wheel in this drive cycle, according data retrieved by Tesla technicians. On two such occasions, she had her hands off the wheel for more than one minute each time and her hands came back on only after a visual alert. Are you Fing kidding me! Time to recall these car and disable this feature. This Bimbo put so many lives in danger, and Musk every time he open his piehole only emboldens his kool aid drinkers.

    • See 4 previous
    • Conundrum Conundrum on May 17, 2018

      @vvk The driver not paying attention is completely irrelevant and beside the point. Which is, why does this half-a*sed system sometimes NOT sense large stationary or almost stationary objects in its path and give out an alarm? Then apply the brakes? Whether the stupid texter ostensibly driving is quick enough to react to the warning is one thing. Not being warned at all is the real problem. Or are you merely being deliberately obtuse?

  • Incautious Incautious on May 17, 2018

    This could be about 99.99% of Tesla drivers. When on autopilot, vast majority do not touch the wheel. Besides, I really doubt Tesla can detect fingers touching the wheel. They can only detect WEIGHT on the wheel. I know because I deal with this every day driving my Tesla. Well then I guess you are a very lucky guy that it wasn't you wife and kids in that cross walk instead of that HUGE fire truck.

    • See 2 previous
    • Kalvin Knox Kalvin Knox on May 17, 2018

      @incautious +1

  • Ted Lulis Head gaskets and Toyota putting my kids through college👍️
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.