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US agency opens investigation into fatal Tesla vehicle accident that killed three

A Tesla logo on a Model S was photographed inside a Tesla dealership in New York, USA, April 29, 2016. REUTERS / Lucas Jackson

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WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) – A U.S. car safety agency said Wednesday it has opened an investigation into a fatal crash with a Tesla vehicle in California this month that resulted in three deaths and may have been caused by the advanced driver assistance system.

The accident, which involved a 2022 Tesla Model S that crashed into construction equipment in Newport Beach last week, is one of 35 investigated by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) involving Tesla vehicles where advanced driver assistance systems such as autopilot were suspected of having been used since 2016.

A total of 14 accidental deaths have been reported in these Tesla surveys, including the three recent deaths.

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NHTSA confirmed the new probe of a Tesla Model S crash on May 12 that killed three people in the vehicle and injured three workers when it hit construction equipment along the Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach.

Newport Beach Police on Wednesday declined to say whether the Tesla vehicle was in autopilot mode at the time of the crash, and said it was still under investigation.

Tesla’s autopilot and other driver assistance systems that handle certain tasks for drivers have been put under increased scrutiny.

Tesla states on its website that Autopilot provides driver assistance by enabling vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake automatically, but “requires active driver monitoring and does not make the vehicle autonomous.” NHTSA notes that there are no autonomous vehicles for sale that will allow drivers to disregard.

NHTSA sends special collision teams to conduct over 100 comprehensive special collision investigations annually of “unique crashes in the real world” to “conduct in-depth clinical investigations in a timely manner that can be used by the automotive safety community to improve the performance of its advanced safety systems.”

Of the 35 special crash investigations conducted by NHTSA by Tesla since 2016 with advanced driver assistance systems, the use of autopilot is excluded in three.

NHTSA said separately on Wednesday that in April they had opened another special crash investigation that involved a 2016 Tesla Model X in a Florida collision that caused a minor injury, which may also have involved the use of an advanced driver assistance system.

In August, NHTSA said it had opened a formal preliminary defect evaluation in the autopilot and has identified at least a dozen accidents involving Tesla models and emergency vehicles. That investigation is still ongoing.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Edited by Leslie Adler, Grant McCool and Bernard Orr

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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