New Tesla Fatal Accident To Be Investigated

A new fatal accident involving a Tesla vehicle is being investigated by US authorities, over concerns the car may have been on autopilot at the time.

The fatal accident took place on 29 December in Gardena, a suburb in Los Angeles. A black Model S reportedly left the 91 freeway in Gardena and was moving at a high rate of speed when it ran a red light and crashed into a 2006 Honda Civic at an intersection, police are reported by the Guardian newspaper as saying.

Both occupants of the Honda Civic (a man and a woman) died at the scene. A man and woman in the Tesla were hospitalized, but they only suffered non-life threatening injuries. No arrests were made at the crash.

copyright Connecticut State Police

Two fatal crashes

Now the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the crash, the Guardian reported.

Spokesman Sean Rushton reportedly would not say whether the Tesla Model S was on Autopilot at the time of the accident.

However, the NHTSA statement said the agency had assigned its special crash investigation team to inspect the car and the crash scene. That team has previously inspected 13 crashes involving Tesla vehicles the agency believed were operating on the Autopilot system.

Results were published in two of those cases, one of which involved Autopilot. Results are pending in the other 10 cases, the agency said in a statement.

Are we ready for ready for driverless transport?

But this was not the only fatal crash involving a Tesla over the Christmas period.

Also on Sunday 29 December, another Tesla crash killed a woman in Indiana.

The Guardian reported state police as saying that the driver, Derrick Monet, 25, of Prescott Valley, Arizona, was seriously injured after he rear-ended a fire truck parked along Interstate 70 in Putnam county.

His wife, Jenna Monet, 23, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Derrick Monet told investigators he regularly used his Tesla’s Autopilot mode, but didn’t recall whether he had it activated at the time of the accident, state police Sgt Matt Ames reportedly said.

Autopilot worries

In March last year, a US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report concluded that a fatal Tesla crash in March found that its Autopilot self-driving technology was engaged for 10 seconds before the crash.

The roof of the Tesla Model X was sheared off and its 50-year-old driver was killed when the vehicle drove under the trailer of a semi truck that was crossing its path in March 2019.

That March incident had similarities to a May 2016 crash in which a Model S also drove under the trailer of a semi truck crossing its path. That crash found that autopilot had failed to detect the white trailer against a bright sky.

But it concluded that the driver was not paying attention to the road and exonerated Tesla.

There are reportedly at least five fatalities worldwide involving Tesla vehicles on autopilot.

Meanwhile the NHTSA is already investigating a crash in early December when a Tesla Model 3 on autopilot crashed into the rear of a police car.

Copyright Connecticut State Police

That accident took place in Connecticut, when a Model 3 in its autonomous driving mode failed to avoid crashing into a stationary police car which had its blue flashing lights on, as it attended to a broken down car in the “left centre lane”.

The driver admitted to State police that he had placed his Tesla Model 3 on autopilot so he could check on his dog in the back seat. The driver of the Tesla was charged with Reckless Driving and Reckless Endangerment.

Tesla recommends users be prepared to take over from autopilot at all times, and that drivers do not remove their hands from the steering wheel whilst autopilot is engaged.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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