Feds Investigating Yet Another Fatal Tesla Crash, Again

The NHTSA has opened 37 investigations into Tesla-involved crashes since 2016.

byRob Stumpf|
Florida Highway Patrol
Florida Highway Patrol.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened its 37th special crash investigation against Tesla after a 2015 Tesla Model S struck a stationary Walmart truck in Florida on July 6, killing the two occupants.

It's unclear if Autopilot is involved in the wreck, however, the NHTSA confirmed Friday that it would launch a probe into the crash. Likely, this is due to the crash's similarities shared with other collisions involving Tesla vehicles already under investigation by the federal agency.

The Model S rear-ended the semi-truck at a rest area off Interstate 75 near Paynes Prairie, Florida. The vehicle reportedly exited the highway and navigated into the rest area where it struck the trailer. The speed at which the collision occurred is unclear, though it would appear to have been at highway speeds given damages sustained by the Tesla. Photos show the Model S with its roof sheared off, pinned up to the front seats underneath the semi-trailer.

Tesla has a history of reports where vehicles have struck stationary emergency vehicles and semi-trucks while Autopilot was in use or turned on moments before the crash. NHTSA hasn't said if it is investigating Autopilot in the fatal Florida crash last week.

The NHTSA has increasingly scrutinized Advanced Driver Assistance Systems like Tesla's Autopilot lately.The agency has opened 36 other crash investigations into Tesla vehicles where Autopilot was suspected of being used at the time of the collision since 2016. A total of 17 fatalities have been recorded across these inquiries.

It also recently upgraded one of its probes covering 830,000 vehicles to an Engineering Analysis, which is a prerequisite to requesting a manufacturer to issue a recall. In its update on that probe, the NHTSA revealed that Tesla vehicles operating on Autopilot typically disengaged, on average, less than one second prior to impact.

Despite its system's naming, Tesla maintains that Autopilot and its Full Self-Driving Beta are Level 2 ADAS systems, and drivers must always remain alert and in control of their car at all times. The Drive could not reach out to Tesla for comment, as the automaker dissolved its communications and public relations department.

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