U.S. road safety regulators have sent a team to investigate a crash involving a Tesla that may have been operating on a partially automated driving system when it hit a student leaving a school bus.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Friday said it will probe the March 15 crash in North Carolina that injured a 17-year-old charter school student. The State Highway Patrol said the driver of the 2022 Tesla Model Y, a 51-year-old man, didn't stop for the bus, which was displaying all of its activated warning signs.
Sending special investigation teams to crashes means the agency suspects the Tesla operating system that handles some aspects of driving, including Autopilot and "Full Self-Driving" is partially to blame.
Tesla, which has dismantled its media relations department, could not be reached for comment. Despite the names, Tesla has said the driver-assist system must be monitored and that drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.
NHTSA has sent investigative teams to more than 30 crashes since 2016 in which Teslas suspected of operating on Autopilot or "Full Self-Driving" have struck pedestrians, motorcyclists, semi trailers and parked emergency vehicles. At least 14 people have died in the crashes.
The agency wouldn't comment on open investigations, but it has been scrutinizing Teslas more intensely in the past year, seeking several recalls.
Crashes caused by Tesla's self-driving system pushed a little-known consumer advocacy group toin February and draw attention to the dangers. The Dawn Project said Tesla's self-driving technology poses a threat to pedestrians and drivers. The commercial aired in cities, including Atlanta, Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.
Tesla and NHTSA need to determine why the vehicles don't seem to see flashing lights on school buses and emergency vehicles and make sure the problem is fixed, said Michael Brooks, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington.
"I've been saying probably for a couple of years now, they need to figure out why these vehicles aren't recognizing flashing lights for a big starter," Brooks said. "NHTSA needs to step in and get them to do a recall because that's a serious safety issue."
Earlier this month, the agency revealed an investigation into steering wheels that can detach from the steering column on as many as 120,000 Model Y SUVs. NHTSA is also investigating seat belts that may not be anchored securely in some Tesla models, and hasreports of Teslas braking suddenly for no reason, suspension problems and other issues.
In February,with "Full Self-Driving" software because the system can break traffic laws.
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