It will be the broadest look yet at Tesla’s assisted-driving technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the authority to force a recall or require new safety features.
The U.S. auto safety regulator said Monday that it had opened a broad investigation of the Autopilot system used in hundreds of thousands of Tesla’s electric cars.
The investigation was prompted by at least 11 accidents in which Teslas using Autopilot, an assisted-driving system that can steer, accelerate and brake on its own, drove into parked fire trucks, police cars and other emergency vehicles, the safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, disclosed. Those crashes killed one woman and injured 17 people.
Safety experts and regulators have been scrutinizing Autopilot since the first fatal accident involving the system was reported in 2016, in which the driver of a Tesla Model S was killed when his car struck a tractor-trailer in Florida. In that case, the safety agency concluded there were no defects — a position it stuck to for years even as the number of crashes and deaths involving Autopilot climbed.
On Monday, the agency appeared to change course. The investigation is the broadest look yet at Autopilot and at potential flaws that could make it and the Teslas that operate on it dangerous.