The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating another Tesla crash in which Autopilot was allegedly in use.
The crash took place outside of Lansing, Michigan, when the driver of a Tesla Model Y smashed into a state trooper’s cruiser. Michigan police said the driver was using Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS), at the time of the crash. No one was injured, but the government sent investigators to the scene to determine how Autopilot may have contributed to the crash.
“NHTSA is aware of the incident involving a Tesla vehicle near Lansing, Michigan,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Consistent with NHTSA’s vigilant oversight and robust authority over the safety of all motor vehicles and equipment, including automated technologies, we have launched a Special Crash Investigation team to investigate the crash.”
This is the latest crash involving a Tesla to be scrutinized by federal investigators. NHTSA has sent teams to inspect similar crashes involving Teslas that took place in recent weeks in Houston and Detroit. Local law enforcement has said it doesn’t believe Autopilot was involved in the Detroit crash, but they have yet to make the same determination in Houston.
This is also the latest incident to involve a driver using Autopilot crashing into a stationary object. There have been at least two fatal crashes in which a Tesla owner has smashed into a stopped vehicle, and Tesla has yet to address it in any meaningful way.
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment, likely because the company has dissolved its press office and typically doesn’t respond to media requests anymore. In the past, Tesla has warned its customers that Autopilot is not an autonomous driving system and still requires constant attention to the road while in use.
At the same time, the company recently rolled out a beta version of Autopilot called “Full Self Driving” that has given many people the false impression that Tesla vehicles are autonomous and don’t require drivers to pay attention to the road. Tesla recently expanded the number of people who have access to the beta software. “Still be careful, but it’s getting mature,” CEO Elon Musk tweeted recently.
Tesla has a checkered history with the NHTSA, the federal agency that can issue recalls and investigate automobile crashes. The agency has investigated multiple fatal crashes involving Autopilot. Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the ADAS was one of the probable causes of a fatal 2018 crash, in which a California man was killed after his Model X smashed into a concrete barrier. Later, the chair of the safety board said Tesla was ignoring its recommendations. And last year, a spokesperson for NHTSA said the agency was “monitoring” the rollout of Tesla’s Full Self Driving software.
Safety advocates decried Tesla’s decision to test its driver-assistance software on its customers as irresponsible. The executive director of the Center for Auto Safety accused Tesla of “intentionally misleading the public regarding the capabilities and shortcomings of their technology,” according to The Associated Press.