Tesla Faces Two More Probes into Possible Autopilot Failure

The US safety regulator is adding two more accidents to its growing list of collisions by Tesla vehicles fitted with the automaker’s automated driving system, Autopilot.

Reuters reports that investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are now looking into two crashes involving Tesla cars where advanced driver assistance systems are suspected to have been in use. These latest crashes under investigation include an eight-vehicle crash last month on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco in which the driver of a 2021 Tesla Model S reported the Full-Self Driving (FSD) feature had malfunctioned, according to a police report. The other recent crash involves a 2020 Model 3 in Ohio where a minor injury was reported.

In the Bay Bridge incident that led to two minor injuries, police said they were unable to determine if its FSD system was activated. Since 2016, NHTSA has opened 41 special crash investigations involving Tesla vehicles and where advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot were suspected of being used, including eight investigations in 2022. A total of 19 crash deaths have been reported in those Tesla-related investigations.

NHTSA usually opens more than 100 special crash investigations annually into emerging technologies and other potential auto safety issues that have, for example, previously helped to develop safety rules on air bags. Reuters said Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Tesla’s advanced driver assistance systems face growing legal, regulatory and public scrutiny because it has relied almost exclusively on camera technology backed by AI powered software which is much cheaper to fit than the multi-sensor suites favored by other automakers including cameras, radar, LiDAR and ultrasonic sensors.

Tesla sells the $15,000 FSD software as an add-on which enables its vehicles to change lanes and park autonomously. That complements its standard “Autopilot” feature, which enables cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes without driver intervention.

Yet, the automaker has recently filed an application to the US’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy a new radar sensor to its latest models as early as January 2023. In June, NHTSA upgraded its defect probe into 830,000 Tesla vehicles with Autopilot and involving crashes with parked emergency vehicles, a required step before it could seek a possible recall.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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