NEW YORK, NY – JULY 05: The inside of a Tesla vehicle is viewed as it sits parked in a new Tesla … [+]
Tesla TSLA +0.3% is coming under increasing regulatory scrutiny as Reuters reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has nearly two dozen active investigations into crashes of the electric vehicle manufacturer’s vehicles.
The agency disclosed Thursday that of 27 probes of Tesla crashes, 23 remain active. At least three crashes have occurred in recent weeks, including two in Michigan.
On March 11 in Detroit, a Tesla apparently crashed into a semi tractor-trailer truck and kept going after passing beneath the truck. A 21-year-old woman passenger was taken to a Detroit hospital and reported to be in critical condition. The condition of the male driver was unclear.
Also unclear was whether Tesla’s controversial Autopilot system was engaged when the crash occurred. Detroit police who responded to the accident said they did not think it was engaged.
Then early on the morning of March 17 a Tesla suspected of being in Autopilot mode struck a parked Michigan State Police car on I-96 near Lansing. No one was injured and the 22-year-old driver was not cited for any violation.
Tesla hasn’t publicly commented on either accident.
The company’s Autopilot system, which is considerably less than a fully autonomous driving technology, has been at the center of at least three fatal accidents involving Tesla vehicles since 2016.
NHTSA disclosed last July that its Special Crash Investigations team has analyzed 19 Tesla crashes, most non-fatal, in which there was evidence that some type of driver assistance system was engaged at the time of the incidents.
While Tesla officials have said its owner’s manual states clearly that drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel when using Autopilot, some Tesla owners have ignored that advice.
NHTSA told Reuters it is looking more closely at crashes that may involve new technologies such as hybrid or all-electric drivetrains, adaptive cruise control and emergency braking alerts.
Tesla has met with agency officials to explain its “full self-driving,” or FSD, software. CEO Elon Musk tweeted recently that a beta test of FSD has now been offered to 2,000 owners, but other owners who previously tested the software have had that privilege revoked. He didn’t say why.
The EV maker offers FSD as a $10,000 option and plans to release a subscription model for the technology this summer. Tesla says the software allows the car to park itself, change lanes and identify stop signs and traffic lights automatically.
NHTSA said it “will monitor the new technology closely and will not hesitate to take action to protect the public against risks to safety.”
The agency said neither Autopilot nor FSD give any Tesla model the capability to drive itself.
The most technically advanced driver-assist features on the market today still require drivers to pay attention and keep hands on the steering wheel, NHTSA said.
I have worked through three recessions, chronicled the rise of Asia and European automakers in the U.S., the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, and witnessed