Recently, three car accidents involving Tesla vehicles have attracted the attention of federal investigators working for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The latest crash occurred in Lansing, Michigan, while the previous crashes occurred in Houston and Detroit. Tesla Autopilot technology did not play a role in the Detroit collision, and it is unclear whether it played a role in the Houston crash. However, law enforcement has indicated that Tesla Autopilot was involved in the Lansing collision. In this case, the driver crashed into the vehicle of a state police officer, which was stationary at the time. Although no injuries occurred, the NHTSA has launched a Special Crash Investigation team to probe the surrounding events.
Tesla has consistently told consumers that its Autopilot technology does not obviate the need for drivers to pay attention to the road. Autopilot does not make cars fully autonomous, despite the “Full Self Driving” name that Tesla uses for it. CEO Elon Musk has acknowledged that drivers should continue to use caution when using Autopilot, despite its recent improvements. Prior to the Lansing crash, at least two fatal accidents occurred in which a Tesla driver using Autopilot collided with a stationary vehicle. Tesla has not responded to any of these incidents, and auto safety advocates have criticized it for misleading consumers about the limitations of its technology, and for giving the public access to driver assistance software that has not been fully tested.
The NHTSA has investigated previous fatal car accidents involving the Tesla Autopilot technology. For example, the agency determined that the technology played a role in a fatal crash in California when a Tesla struck a concrete barrier. Tesla has been reluctant to follow the safety guidance of the NHTSA, which has applied careful scrutiny to its self driving software as a result.
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