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US investigates fatal Tesla crash in back of tractor-trailer

A You’re here rammed a tractor-trailer at a rest area off Interstate 75 near Gainesville, Florida, killing both driver and passenger. (Reuters)

DETROIT — The U.S. government’s auto safety watchdog is sending investigators into another Tesla crash, this time the one that killed two people along Interstate 75 in Florida.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed on Friday that it sent a special accident investigation team to investigate Wednesday’s crash in the back of a tractor-trailer at a rest area near Gainesville.

The agency wouldn’t say if the Tesla was running on one of the company’s partially automated driving systems.

The 2015 model year Tesla was traveling on Interstate 75 around 2 p.m. Wednesday when, for some unknown reason, it pulled out into a rest area. He then drove into the parking lot and struck the back of a parked Walmart Freightliner tractor-trailer, the Florida Highway Patrol said in a statement.

The driver and passenger, both from Lompoc, Calif., were pronounced dead at the scene.

Highway Patrol Lt. PV Riordan said in an email late Friday that his agency would determine whether partially automated features were being used. “This is a consideration that will be explored during our investigation,” he said.

A message was left Friday seeking comment from Austin, Texas-based Tesla.

NHTSA is investigating 37 crashes involving automated driving systems since 2016. Of those, 30 involved Teslas, including 11 fatal crashes that killed a total of 15 people.

The agency also said in documents that it was investigating a fatal pedestrian accident in California involving a Tesla Model 3 that occurred this month. He also sent a team to investigate a Cruise automated vehicle crash in California that caused a minor injury in June.

NHTSA has also been investigating the crashing of Teslas on Autopilot into parked emergency vehicles. In a separate investigation, the agency is looking at Teslas on Autopilot braking for no apparent reason.

Last week, newly confirmed NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff told The Associated Press that the agency is stepping up its efforts to understand the risks posed by automated vehicle technology so it can decide what regulations might be needed. to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians. He also claims that automated systems such as automatic emergency braking have huge potential to save lives.

In June, NHTSA released data from automakers and technology companies showing nearly 400 crashes over a 10-month period involving vehicles equipped with partially automated driver assistance systems, including 273 with Teslas.

The agency cautioned against using the numbers to compare automakers, saying it does not weigh them by how many vehicles from each maker use the systems, or how many miles those vehicles have driven. .

Automakers reported crashes from July last year to May 15 under an order from the agency, which is reviewing such crashes broadly for the first time.

Tesla’s crashes occurred while the vehicles were using Autopilot, “fully autonomous driving”, traffic-aware cruise control or other driver assistance systems that have some control over speed and The direction. The company has approximately 830,000 vehicles with the systems on the road.

The next closest of a dozen automakers to report crashes was Honda, with 90. Honda says it has about 6 million vehicles on US roads with such systems.

Tesla’s accident count may seem somewhat high because it uses telematics to monitor its vehicles and get real-time accident reports. Other automakers don’t have such a capability, so their reports may be slower or crashes may not be reported at all, NHTSA said.

Automobile safety advocates say driver assistance and self-driving systems have the potential to save lives, but not before NHTSA sets minimum performance standards and mandates safety improvements to protect all road users.

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