The back and forth on Tesla Autopilot and its overall safety is a conversation that has been going on for years at this point. On one side, Tesla has both argued that no one should rely solely on Autopilot to drive the car for you while Elon Musk himself has also said the function is arguably safer than most human drivers. On the other side, there have been multiple incidents, some fatal, which notably involved the use of Tesla’s Autopilot driving system. One way or the other, it’s reached a new tipping point as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a formal investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot regarding multiple accidents with parked emergency and first responder vehicles.
The NHTSA officially opened an investigation into Tesla Autopilot and first responder vehicle incidents on August 13, 2021, as announced on the federal department’s website. The investigation’s purpose is specifically to look into Tesla Autopilot failures regarding parked emergency vehicles. There have been 11 such reported cases of Tesla vehicles utilizing Autopilot crashing into parked emergency vehicles using flares, cones, and/or signal lights, resulting in multiple injuries and at least one death.
The conversation about the safety of Tesla and further automated driving functions in vehicles has been hot for several years now. There have been accidents here and there bringing up concerns, including the high-profile fatal crash of a Tesla Model X driver who reportedly entrusted driving to Autopilot while he was playing mobile games. Meanwhile, Tesla and CEO Elon Musk have vehemently butted heads with authorities and regulators, claiming not only that Tesla vehicles and Autopilot are more than safe all around, but also that a Tesla vehicle with Autopilot engaged is 10 times less likely to crash than a conventional driver.
Nonetheless, even the slight possibility of an automated system crashing with parked emergency responders is arguably more than cause for concern. It will be interesting to see where NHTSA’s investigation ends up and if there are any immediate effects on Tesla as a result, but the investigation covers around 765,000 Tesla vehicles ranging across 2014 to 2021 models, including Models Y, X, S, and 3. Stay tuned here at Shacknews as we continue to follow this story.