Pair of Fatal Tesla Crashes Sparks Investigation by National Safety Regulators

One accident involved a man trapped in a burning Model S while the other incident featured a Model 3 with its roof sheared off after a crash.

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United States regulatory agencies announced that they would launch separate probes into two fatal Tesla accidents which occurred in Florida. Both accidents have become the subject of public interest after circumstances surrounding them raised questions over safety equipment. Additionally, the two accidents occurred within a five-day period, enough for authorities to step in and investigate exactly what happened.

On Monday, an accident in Davie, Florida claimed the life of a 48-year-old man who was trapped in his burning 2016 Tesla Model S after crashing into a median and striking a tree. While the accident was believed to be speed-related according to police and bystanders, the probe is over safety devices which failed post-accident. For example, the Model S's retractable door handles failed to deploy and witnesses to the accident could not extract the man past the side-curtain airbags.

A second accident occurred on Friday in Delray Beach, Florida when a 2018 Tesla Model 3 collided with a semi truck in a side underride accident. The crash sheared the roof off the Model 3, killing the 50-year-old occupant while traveling an additional 0.3 miles before coming to a stop.

The second accident is eerily similar to a crash which occurred when Tesla's Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), Autopilot, failed to recognize a semi truck crossing in front of Joshua Brown's Model S, allowing the vehicle to strike the semi-trailer in the same fashion, shearing off its roof and marking it as the first Autopilot-related death in the history books. A report released by the NTSB outlined the incidents in depth, stating that Brown ignored several warnings to keep his hands on the wheel. At the time of writing, it's not yet clear if Autopilot was active during this accident.

Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will send out teams to investigate the crashes. The NHTSA has regulatory authority to order recalls if a piece of equipment poses a significant safety risk, while the NTSB serves to investigate and report on vehicle-related incidents.

The NHTSA confirmed to Reuters that it had an ongoing investigation and “will take additional actions if appropriate.”