Published: Tue, March 05, 2019
Finance | By Loren Pratt

USA agencies investigating fatal Tesla Model 3 crash

USA agencies investigating fatal Tesla Model 3 crash

NHTSA and NTSB are investigating a number of crashes since 2017 that focus on two primary issues: the role of Tesla's driver assistance technology Autopilot in accidents and some significant battery fires in the electric vehicles after crashes, including cases of batteries reigniting.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a three-person team to the crash.

Separate investigations into two new fatal incidents involving Tesla vehicles are now underway.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said they are sending teams to investigate a fatal crash in Florida on Friday involving a Tesla Inc vehicle and a semi-trailer. The ongoing investigation will try to uncover whether the crash was caused by an error made by the Model 3's 50-year-old driver or if the mistake was made by the vehicle's automated driving systems.

A spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Department that oversees NHTSA said late on Friday that "NHTSA's Crash Investigation Division assigned a Special Crash Investigation team to investigate the crash", while the NTSB said it is sending a team of three "to conduct a safety investigation".

A report on the Delray Beach crash by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said the tractor-trailer was making a left turn onto a divided highway to head north when the southbound 2018 Tesla Model 3 hit the semi's driver side, tearing off the Tesla's roof as it passed under the trailer. The driver of the Model 3 was pronounced dead by paramedics who responded to the incident.

The crash is eerily similar to another one involving a Tesla in 2016 near Gainesville, Florida.

Some Tesla drivers say they are able to avoid putting their hands on the wheel for extended periods when using Autopilot, while Tesla advises drivers that they must keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention while using Autopilot.

Tesla declined to comment on Friday. The company said in a statement Friday that it's cooperating in the investigation. Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was traveling in a Tesla Model S on a divided highway and using the Autopilot system when he was killed.

"If the vehicle was being driven through its Autopilot system, this would appear to be identical" to the crash that killed Brown, Kildare said.

The Sun Sentinel reported that the Tesla Model S, involved in the Davie crash, caught fire multiple times after it was towed. It is not clear whether the Tesla's Autopilot mode was active at the time of the collision. "It will also automatically change lanes on most highways to overtake other cars or navigate to interchanges and exits". Investigators are probing a fatal March 2018 crash involving a Tesla SUV near Mountain View, California.

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