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NHTSA investigates Tesla crash that killed 2 motorcyclists

The scene of a fatal accident involving a Tesla and a motorcycle on July 24, 2022 near Draper, Utah. The Tesla driver said he was using Autopilot. (Utah Department of Public Safety via AP)

DETROIT – Two crashes involving Teslas that appear to be running on Autopilot are drawing scrutiny from federal regulators and point to a new potential danger on US highways: Vehicles Partial automatic turning may not stop for motorcycles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent investigation teams to two crashes last month in which Teslas collided with motorcycles on a highway in the dark. Both died.

The agency suspects that Tesla’s partial autonomous driver assistance system was used in each. The agency said that once more information is gathered, it could cover incidents in a Wider probe of Teslas hits emergency vehicles parked along the highway. NHTSA is also investigating more than 750 complaints that Teslas can brake for no reason.

The first crash involving a motorcyclist occurred at 4:47 a.m. on July 7 on State Route 91, a freeway in Riverside, California. A Tesla Model Y SUV is moving east on a high-capacity vehicle lane. Before that was a rider on a Yamaha V-Star motorcycle, the California Highway Patrol said in a statement.

The vehicles involved in the collision and the unidentified motorcyclist were ejected from the Yamaha. He is presumed dead at the scene.

A CHP spokesman said whether Tesla operates on Autopilot is still under investigation.

The second crash occurred around 1 a.m. on July 24 on Interstate 15 near Draper, Utah. A Tesla Model 3 sat in the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, also on the HOV lane. “The Tesla driver failed to see the motorcyclist and collided with the rear of the motorcycle, ejecting the driver from the vehicle,” the Utah Department of Public Safety said in a statement.

The driver, identified as Landon Embry, 34, of Orem, Utah, died at the scene. The Tesla driver told authorities he had the vehicle’s Autopilot setting turned on, the statement said.

Safety Authority: Recall Autopilot

Michael Brooks, Acting Executive Director of the Center for Nonprofits for Car safetyappealed to NHTSA to recall Tesla’s Autopilot because it failed to recognize motorcyclists, ambulances, or pedestrians.

“It’s pretty clear to me, and certainly to a lot of current Tesla owners, that this tool isn’t working properly and it’s not going to live up to expectations, and it’s causing innocent people to lose their lives. in danger on the road,” says Brooks.

Since 2016, NHTSA has dispatched teams to 39 crashes in which autonomous driving systems are suspected of being used, according to agency documents. Of those, 30 involved Teslas, including crashes that left 19 people dead.

Brooks criticized the agency for continuing to investigate but not taking action. “What the hell are they doing while these collisions keep happening?” he asked.

Musk has removed the use of radar from his system and relies solely on cameras and computer memory. Brooks and other safety advocates say the lack of radar will affect visibility in the dark.

Messages were left seeking comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department.

Tesla has said that Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” cannot drive themselves (despite what their names might imply) and that drivers should be ready to intervene at all times.

In an interview in June, new NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff said the agency increase efforts to understand risk set by automated vehicles so that it can decide what regulations may be necessary to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians. There are no federal regulations that apply directly to self-driving cars or vehicles with partially automated driver assistance systems like Autopilot.

The agency also says the technology holds great promise in reducing traffic accidents.

NHTSA has also required all automakers and technology companies with automated driving systems to report all crashes. The agency released its first batch of data in June showing that nearly 400 incidents were reported over a 10-month period, including 273 with Teslas. But they caution against comparisons, saying Tesla’s telecommunications technology allows it to collect data in real time, much faster than other companies.

Tesla’s Autopilot feature helps cars stay in their lane and keep some distance from other vehicles. The company is also using select owners to test its “Full Self-Driving” software, which is designed to complete a route on its own with human supervision. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the cars will eventually drive themselves, enabling a fleet of autonomously controlled robots that will boost Tesla’s earnings. In 2019, Musk pledged to have taxi robots in operation by 2020.

He said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday that “Full Self-Driving” has improved a lot and that he expects to make the software available by the end of the year to all owners. requested it.

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