After a crash that may have involved Tesla’s Autopilot feature and killed three people, U.S. vehicle safety regulators have opened up a new investigation into more than 30 other driving incidents in which Autopilot was involved.
The new investigation, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, was spurred on by an accident earlier this month that occurred in Newport Beach, California. The incident involved a Tesla vehicle that reportedly hit a curb and ran into construction equipment, killing all three of the vehicle’s occupants and sending three construction workers to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Local police declined to say whether Tesla's Autopilot was involved or not.
Last year, federal officials launched a separate probe into the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot feature following a violent crash in Detroit. Earlier this year, the automaker recalled over 50,000 vehicles over Autopilot-related issues.
Automakers continue to invest in self-driving technologies
Tesla is one of a number of automakers that employ Level 2 driver assistance systems, which were originally designed to ease the burden of driving. J.D. Power says Genesis, Hyundai, and Kia all offer Level 2 driving automation.
“It requires the driver to have [their] hands on the steering wheel but actively steers, accelerates, and brakes the vehicle when traveling on highways,” the company explained.
Ford can now also be officially counted as an automaker in the category because of the BlueCruise, a hands-free driving technology released in 2021 that will supposedly allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel on specific, approved divided highways in the U.S. and Canada.
Both Ford and General Motors say their systems are a step above Tesla’s AutoPilot, which the company has repeatedly stressed is not a hands-free system. However, a number of Tesla accidents over the years have shown that some drivers have used it that way.