The US Government has opened a formal investigation into Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ system following a number of accidents involving emergency vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed the news on its website, with 17 people injured and one killed in the incidents identified by the organisation.
Since 2018, the agency has identified 11 crashes where a Tesla on Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control has hit a vehicle with flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards.
The investigation covers Models 3, X, Y and S built between 2014 and 2021, with reports suggesting that it relates to over 765,000 vehicles.
Tesla’s Autopilot system has proved quite controversial. It’s essentially an adaptive cruise control system that can keep the car in its lane on the highway and adapt its speed based on the vehicles around it, with some advanced features such as changing lanes.
However, recently the firm rolled out a Full Self Driving ‘beta’, giving some owners the chance to test fully autonomous capabilities.
The firm’s critics have said that the Autopilot name gives owners a false sense of the technology’s capabilities, while others are unhappy that the incomplete self-driving system is being ‘tested’ on public roads.
As news of the NHTSA investigation broke, American motoring journalist Matt Farah wrote on Twitter: “This is extremely dangerous technology, the merits of which are being oversold to the public… I, as someone on my motorcycle, have not consented to the experiment.”
The National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has also investigated some Autopilot incidents since 2016, and has recommended the NHTSA and Tesla restrict Autopilot to areas where it can safely operate.
It has also recommended that the NHTSA should require Tesla to fit better systems to make sure the driver is paying attention.