Two fatal Tesla crashes are being examined by investigators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Reuters reported that NHTSA opened a special investigation into a recent fatal crash in California, in which a Tesla driver killed a pedestrian. And an agency spokesperson confirmed that a crash that took place on July 6th in Florida is also under examination.
The crash in Florida took place on Interstate 75, just south of Gainesville, where a Tesla vehicle smashed into the rear of a stationary tractor-trailer that was parked at a truck stop. Two people inside the Tesla, the driver and a passenger, were killed, according to Fox 35. A spokesperson for NHTSA said the agency was aware of the crash and was currently communicating with Tesla about it.
A spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol said it is not known yet whether Autopilot was activated at the time of the crash. “In their investigation of this incident our Investigators will gather as much info and data as possible, which is standard operating procedure,” Lieutenant P.V. Riordan said in an email. “Last, they may reach out to the manufacturer in the event additional information is needed.”
NHTSA is currently looking into 16 crashes in which Tesla owners using Autopilot crashed into stationary emergency vehicles, resulting in 15 injuries and one fatality. Most of these incidents took place after dark, with the software ignoring scene control measures including warning lights, flares, cones, and an illuminated arrow board. The probe was recently upgraded to an “Engineering Analysis,” which is the second and final phase of an investigation before a possible recall.
Tesla tops the government’s list of vehicle crashes that take place while using active driver-assist features, which automakers argue make driving safer. Tesla’s numbers were much higher than other companies, most likely due to the fact that it sells more vehicles equipped with Level 2 systems than its rivals. Tesla also collects real-time telematics data from its customers, giving it a much faster reporting process.
From July 20th, 2021, to May 21st, 2022, there were 273 crashes involving Tesla vehicles using Autopilot, according to NHTSA. The EV company’s crashes represent the bulk of the total 392 crashes reported during that period.
The first person killed while using Tesla Autopilot was Joshua Brown when his Tesla Model S crashed into a tractor-trailer that was crossing his path on US Highway 27A, near Williston, Florida, in 2016. Three years later, another Tesla owner, 50-year-old Jeremy Beren Banner, was also killed on a Florida highway under eerily similar circumstances: his Model 3 collided with a tractor-trailer that was crossing his path, shearing the roof off in the process. Banner was also using Autopilot.
In the past, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has blamed crashes involving Autopilot on driver overconfidence. “When there is a serious accident it is almost always, in fact maybe always, the case that it is an experienced user, and the issue is more one of complacency,” Musk said in 2018.