The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is probing the fatal crash of a speeding Tesla that killed two people in a Los Angeles suburb, the agency stated Tuesday.
Agency representative Sean Rushton wouldn’t say if the Tesla Model S was on Autopilot when it collided on December 29 in Gardena. That system is designed to automatically change lanes and keep a safe distance from other automobiles.
The black Tesla had left a freeway and was moving at a high speed when it ran a red light and struck into a Honda Civic at an intersection, police stated.
A man and woman in the Civic died at the spot.
A man and woman in the Tesla were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No arrests were made right away.
An NHTSA statement said the agency has assigned its special crash investigation team to review the car and the crash scene. That team has reviewed a total of 13 crashes associating Tesla vehicles that the agency believed were operating on the Autopilot system. Results were posted in two of those cases, one of which involved Autopilot. Results are pending in the other 10 cases, the agency stated.
Both Tesla and the NHTSA have advised that advanced driver assist systems like the Autopilot aren’t completely autonomous but involve human drivers to pay attention at all times. But several crashes — some deadly — have been blamed on driver inattention associated with overconfidence in such systems. In one crash report, the National Transportation Safety Board called it an “automation complacency”.
Tesla’s Autopilot has been criticized by the National Transportation Safety Board. In September, that agency stated that in a 2018 crash in Culver City where a Tesla struck a fire truck, the design of the Autopilot system allowed “the driver to disengage from the driving task”. Nobody was injured in that accident.
The NTSB figured out in September 2017 that design limitations of the Tesla Model S Autopilot played a significant role in a May 2016 fatal crash in Florida involving a vehicle operating under Autopilot. But it put the blame of the crash on an inattentive Tesla driver’s over-dependence on technology and a truck driver who made a left turn in front of the vehicle.