The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has dispatched a team of investigators to examine a tragic accident in Virginia where a Tesla vehicle, suspected of utilizing a partially automated driving system, was involved. This recent incident adds to the tally of 35 Tesla crashes that have been under scrutiny by the safety agency since June 2016, with suspicions arising about the use of systems like Autopilot in these cases. Regrettably, at least 17 people have lost their lives in these accidents.
While specific details surrounding the crash have not been disclosed, the Fauquier County Sheriff's office in Virginia issued a statement revealing that on July 19, a Tesla collided with the side of a tractor-trailer as it was exiting a truck stop, resulting in the fatality of the Tesla driver. The truck driver, charged with reckless driving, awaits further investigation to ascertain any potential responsibility.
Sheriff's office spokesperson Jeffrey Long has confirmed that the crash's connection to automated driving systems is currently under investigation. He stated via email, "The sheriff's office is actively investigating this incident in order to determine the cause and assess any potential culpability. We are collaborating with NHTSA, who will provide their expertise in reaching a conclusive investigative outcome."
The NHTSA is also examining other recent incidents, such as a head-on collision between a Tesla Model 3 and a Subaru Impreza in South Lake Tahoe, California on July 5, resulting in fatalities for both the driver of the Subaru and an infant passenger in the Tesla. Additionally, investigators were dispatched to evaluate a crash on March 15 in Halifax County, North Carolina, which left a 17-year-old student injured. According to the State Highway Patrol at the time, the driver of the 2022 Tesla Model Y, a 51-year-old male, failed to halt for a bus that had activated all warning devices.
Tesla has yet to release a statement regarding this recent tragedy.
Investigation into Tesla Safety Problems
The U.S. safety agency is currently investigating a series of crashes involving Tesla vehicles. These crashes are suspected to be linked to partially automated systems like Autopilot and "Full Self-Driving." Despite their names, these systems do not have the capability to drive without human intervention. Tesla's website clearly states that drivers must be prepared to step in at any given moment.
Although the results of the crash investigations conducted by special teams have not been made public, it has been revealed that at least two of these investigations involve Teslas colliding with tractor-trailers.
Furthermore, in the past three years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has initiated six separate formal investigations into safety issues related to Tesla vehicles.
The ongoing investigations are focused on various concerns such as instances where Teslas have crashed into parked emergency vehicles while operating on the Autopilot driver-assist system, sudden emergency braking for no apparent reason, suspension failures, steering wheel detachments, steering failures, and improperly connected front seat belts.
Tesla's Autopilot system is designed to keep a car within its lane and maintain a safe distance from the vehicles ahead. On the other hand, Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" technology is intended to handle most driving tasks and is currently being tested on public roads by Tesla owners. However, even in these cases, Tesla emphasizes that drivers must remain vigilant and ready to take control of the vehicle at any time.
Michael Brooks, the executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, believes that Autopilot is flawed and should be subject to a recall. He points out that many Tesla drivers are not paying sufficient attention and are overly reliant on the Autopilot system to drive their vehicles.
Brooks asserts that a recall should be an obvious decision, stating, "That's why I find it puzzling why this process is taking so long, and we continue to witness tragic accidents."
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