An investigation has been launched into Tesla's autopilot feature after nearly a dozen crashes with emergency vehicles since 2018, including one with a California Highway Patrol vehicle in San Diego County.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the investigation on Monday into 11 crashes in which various Tesla models crashed into vehicles at first responder scenes since January 2018. In all cases, the Teslas were using either autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control, the agency said.
One of those crashes happened on July 10 in San Diego County, the agency said.
According to California Highway Patrol, on that day, a Tesla vehicle crashed into an unoccupied CHP vehicle that was pulled over along eastbound State Route 56 in Carmel Valley to tend to another crash.
The Tesla, with a 29-year-old woman behind the wheel, traveled across the full freeway closure and slammed into the back of the empty CHP vehicle at about 3:10 a.m., CHP said.
A passenger in the vehicle was injured, though the severity of her injuries at the time were not disclosed.
CHP arrested the driver on suspicion of driving under the influence.
NBC 7 reached out to CHP for updated information regarding the crash but has not yet heard back.
It was unclear what type of vehicle assistance the NHTSA believes was being used at the time of the crash.
Tesla's autopilot feature helps the vehicle maintain its speed and lane centering but it is still the driver's responsibility to detect obstacles on the roadway, the NHTSA noted.
Of the crashes being investigated, 17 people were injured and one was killed.
The agency said most of the crashes happened after dark and when scene control measures like flashing vehicle lights, flares, illuminated arrow boards or road cones were in use.
The investigation is a shift in stance for the NHTSA, which had previously been reluctant to regulate the new technology for fear of hampering adoption of the potentially life-saving systems.
The NHTSA said they will investigate the technologies and methods Tesla uses to monitor, assist and enforce the driver's engagement with the autopilot system. It will also look into the vehicle's ability to assess obstacles itself while in autopilot mode.
The investigation covers Tesla's entire current model lineup, the Models Y, X, S and 3 from the 2014 through 2021 model years.