Fatal Tesla crash sparks federal investigation

A Tesla vehicle was involved in a deadly crash on SundayImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Investigators have not said whether the Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system played a role

Authorities in the US are investigating a fatal crash involving a Tesla car equipped with a semi-autonomous driver-assistance system.

Two people in a Honda Civic died when it collided with the Tesla Model S in Los Angeles, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.

The occupants of the Tesla, which reportedly passed through a red light, were treated for minor injuries.

Authorities did not say whether the Tesla’s Autopilot played a role.

‘Not hands-free’

Autopilot is Tesla’s semi-autonomous driver-assistance system that allows a vehicle to self-park, change lanes and navigate autonomously in certain conditions.

The company has repeatedly stated that drivers must remain alert and should not remove their hands from the steering wheel when using the feature.

The NHTSA said in a statement it had assigned a special crash investigation team to inspect the car and the scene of Sunday’s crash.

The regulator has the power to issue mandatory vehicle recalls if it deems them necessary.

It has previously investigated 13 other incidents involving Tesla vehicles, which were suspected to have had Autopilot engaged at the time that they crashed.

Results from 11 of those investigations are still pending.

Several collisions have been blamed on a lack of attention from the driver rather than an error with the Tesla Autopilot system.

On 23 March 2019, a Tesla Model X crashed into a roadside barrier and caught fire while on Autopilot, which also resulted in the death of the driver.

On that occasion Tesla did not reveal whether Autopilot had spotted the barrier.

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