US investigating Tesla’s Autopilot over 11 crashes into emergency vehicles

Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a white shirt and tie exits the backseat of a white Tesla
Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Matt Rourke/AP Photo
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a probe into Tesla’s Autopilot system.
  • The probe was prompted by 11 incidents since 2018 where Teslas crashed into first-responder scenes.
  • The NHTSA said it will investigate all Teslas made since 2014, giving a total of 765,000 vehicles.
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The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into Tesla’s driver-assist Autopilot feature, the Associated Press first reported Monday.

The NHTSA said in a document detailing the scope of the probe that it had identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas struck vehicles at first-responder scenes.

The NHTSA said most of the crashes had taken place after dark and and had involved emergency vehicles with flashing lights, flares, illuminated arrow boards, or even traffic cones near them. The NHSTA said all the Teslas involved in the collisions had Autopilot or “Traffic Aware Cruise Control” turned on.

Traffic Aware Cruise Control is a feature included in Tesla’s Autopilot mode that automatically matches the car’s speed to that of the surrounding traffic.

Out of the 11 crashes identified, seven resulted in injuries, and one resulted in a fatality.

The NHTSA said it would investigate all Tesla models X, Y, S, and 3 made between 2014 and 2021. The NHTSA said this gives a total pool of 765,000 vehicles.

“In keeping with the agency’s core safety mission and to better understand the causes of certain Tesla crashes, NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into Tesla Autopilot systems and the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement with driving while Autopilot is in use,” the NHTSA said in a statement.

Tesla did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider for comment.

The NHTSA previously said in June that it had opened 30 investigations into Tesla crashes it suspected had involved its Autopilot system, including crashes that caused 10 deaths since 2016, according to a Reuters report. The agency told Reuters that it had ruled out the use of Autopilot in three of the crashes.

Tesla has faced criticism over the safety of its driver-assisted software. In August 2020, a Tesla Model S slammed into a police car in North Carolina while on Autopilot, local Highway Patrol officers told CBS 17 in Raleigh.