Tesla Autopilot Feature Defective? US Investigates Elon Musk's Cars Over Auto Safety Problems, Emergency Vehicle Crashes

Tesla Autopilot Feature Defective? US Investigates Elon Musk's Cars Over Auto Safety Problems, Emergency Vehicle Crashes
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is launching probes to investigate Tesla's Autopilot feature. The electric vehicle company has been under fire before with its autonomous driving system and the vehicle collisions it has been involved with. Photo : ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP via Getty Images

Problems with Tesla's Autopilot feature have prompted the U.S. government to launch a formal investigation on the electronic vehicle company's driving system. The more active approach of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could start a stricter implementation of regulations for automakers. Learn more about the Tesla probes launched by the NHTSA that cover more than half a million vehicles.

Tesla Autopilot Problems Trigger Probes from U.S. Government

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation covering 765,000 vehicles since the start of the 2014 model year, WHDH TV 7NEWS reported. That is almost every Tesla vehicle in their lineup, the Models Y, X, S, and 3, manufactured and sold from 2014 to 2021.

The NHTSA is looking into different crashes allegedly caused by the faulty Tesla Autopilot system or the Traffic Aware Cruise Control setting. One of the crashes identified left 17 people injured and one killed.

All in all, the government body has identified 11 crashes since 2018. They said Teslas on either of the two driving modes have hit vehicles at scenes where first responders have used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, or cones warning of hazards. Vehicles the Teslas have collided with included fire trucks, police cruisers, and other civilian vehicles.

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit the use of Autopilot to areas where it can safely operate. The NTSB also recommended the NHTSA to require the electronic vehicle company to have better systems to make sure the drivers are still paying attention to the road. The NTSB has no enforcement powers, limited to only making recommendations to other federal agencies.

The Autopilot feature has been misused by Tesla drivers often enough in the past, being caught driving drunk and even riding in the back seat while the car cruised down a highway.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has yet to respond regarding these probes, and the company's stocks have dropped since the NHTSA announcement.

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U.S. President Joe Biden and NHTSA on Stricter Auto Safety

The NHTSA opened 26 probes into different auto and highway safety issues this year, and it plans to launch about 66 percent more investigations compared to last year. The government body has opened more investigations this year than in all of 2020 and 2019, it announced.

Taking a more aggressive approach on the issue, The NHTSA also released an order in June that required car manufacturers, including Tesla, to report crashes involving automated driving technology, according to Auto News.

Almost every U.S. automaker offers a variety of advanced driver-assistance systems and technologies that can aid in vehicle parking, staying in their driving lane, or avoiding obstacles. These technologies are far from a completely autonomously driving vehicle and are far from perfect when it comes to ensuring driver and passenger safety.

With President Biden and his administration adopting a safety-conscious and independent-minded leadership style, the NHTSA could carry out a more stringent and active safety enforcement agenda.

Related Article: Tesla Autopilot Crash on Emergency Vehicles Under Investigation; Stocks Falling Amid Investor Fears

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