The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into a fatal crash involving Tesla, according to documents viewed by TechCrunch. The investigation, which began in July, is the latest in a long line of NHTSA Special Investigations Program investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles. A pedestrian was killed in the fatal crash, while involved was a 2018 Tesla Model 3 in California.
NHTSA’s Special Crash Investigation (SCI) program focuses on cases that examine special crash situations or outcomes from an engineering perspective. The agency currently has 45 open SCI cases involving advanced driver assistance systems or autonomous driving. Of these, 36 involve Tesla vehicles. And 11 of those crashes have resulted in 15 deaths.
Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system, known as Autopilot, has increasingly come under scrutiny from U.S. federal agencies. Last month, the NHTSA escalated its investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system after discovering a new incident in which an electric car crashed into a parked emergency vehicle.
The agency noted in a notice that it is expanding its initial assessment of Tesla Autopilot to include an engineering analysis. According to the agency, this means NHTSA will expand its existing crash analysis, evaluate additional data sets and conduct vehicle assessments and evaluate whether Autopilot and related Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks by undermining the effectiveness of driver oversight.
This upgrade is a critical and necessary step before NHTSA can issue a recall order. According to the agency’s filing, an estimated 830,000 Tesla vehicles are involved in the investigation.