Federal government sends team to Detroit to investigate ‘violent’ Tesla crash

An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated which federal agency was investigating the crash.

DETROIT – The U.S. government’s highway safety agency is sending a team to Detroit to investigate an accident involving a Tesla that rolled under a semi-trailer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Monday evening that a special accident investigation team will visit the city to investigate the “violent crash.” Two people were seriously injured in the accident last Thursday in the southwest of the city.

The circumstances of the crash are similar to those of two others in Florida in which Teslas drove under semi-trailers, killing two. In both crashes, in 2016 and 2019, the cars were driven using Tesla’s partially automated Autopilot driving software.

Detroit Police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood couldn’t tell if Tesla’s driver was using the company’s autopilot or “fully autonomous” software. “He is still under investigation,” she said.

A message was left on Monday evening requesting comment from Tesla TSLA,
-2.19%.
The Palo Alto, Calif., Based company previously said that autopilot and “full autonomous driving” are driver assistance systems and the driver should be ready to intervene at all times.

But the company was criticized by the National Transportation Safety Board for failing to adequately monitor drivers to ensure they are paying attention. The NTSB, which investigates accidents and makes recommendations, also criticized Tesla for allowing the system to run on roads it cannot handle.

In a February 1 letter to the Department of Transportation, which includes the NHTSA, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt urged the agency to pass regulations governing driver assistance systems as well as self-driving vehicle testing. . NHTSA has relied primarily on voluntary vehicle guidelines, taking a practical approach so as not to hamper the development of new safety technologies.

He wrote that Tesla uses its owners to test “fully autonomous” software on public roads with limited monitoring or reporting requirements. “Because NHTSA has no requirements in place, manufacturers can operate and test vehicles virtually anywhere, even if the location exceeds the limits of the AV (autonomous vehicle) control system,” wrote Sumwalt.

“Although Tesla includes a disclaimer that ‘currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous,’ NHTSA’s hands-on approach to audiovisual test oversight poses a risk. potential for motorists and other road users, ”he wrote.

Detroit Police said in a statement that a white Tesla sedan crossed an intersection around 3:20 a.m. Thursday, struck the trailer and got stuck under it.

The driver and passenger were both taken to a local hospital. The woman was in critical condition Thursday, while the driver’s condition was not immediately known. Police said the information was preliminary and subject to change after further investigation.


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