Tesla’s Autopilot now under safety probe

11 incidents in America result in US luxury BEV brand Tesla facing a safety probe of its current model line-up, incidents in other countries surface

Washington D.C., USA – US battery electric vehicle (BEV) manufacturer now faces an official safety investigation from its domestic regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as a result of multiple incidents believed to be caused by the carmaker’s Autopilot driver assistance system.

A preliminary report on the NHTSA website says that all of Tesla’s current model line-up will be covered in the investigation – the executive sedan Model 3, the large luxury sedan Model S, the midsize SUV Model Y, and the large SUV Model X – covering the model years 2014 to 2021. Autonews Europe reports that as many as 765,000 cars could be affected.

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The report indicates that 11 incidents in various parts of the USA all occurred at night, and involved first responders (i.e. emergency or accident crews). Two consistent elements of all 11 incidents were the fact that traffic control/alert measures such as flares, warning lights, or blinking arrows, were present and that all the Tesla models involved had Autopilot engaged at the time.

Tesla’s wrangles with Autopilot aren’t new: There have been multiple cases of Tesla owners switching the system on and falling asleep, sitting in the back seat, or even watching Harry Potter movies and crashing. The system has also been fooled into thinking the moon is an amber traffic light.

In recent news, Tesla’s also faced criticism in China for poor quality issues, a recall of almost 300,000 cars because of unintended acceleration issues related to Autopilot, with a another possible incident in the UK involving Autopilot occured just this week.

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We’ve said before that Tesla’s naming of the system is misleading at best – it’s a Level 2 autonomous system which means it is an assistance system and always requires driver supervision, unlike a Level 3 system. We’ve tested Autopilot ourselves, and it simply works like every other advanced driver assistance system found in anything from Hyundais to Audis now, keeping a proper distance to the car in front of you, warning you of a collision, and keeping you in your lane.

With Tesla just beginning official deliveries of its first cars to customers here, what should you do if you own a Tesla? Simple – don’t use Autopilot for the time being. Also, don’t believe everything Elon says on Twitter, as full autonomous cars are still a long way off.

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong