The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the US Department of Transportation, is probing a fatal car crash involving a 2015 Tesla near Gainesville, Florida. According to a report by the New York Post, the crash involved a Tesla that collided with the rear of a semi-trailer truck at an Interstate 75 rest stop, killing the Tesla’s driver and passenger, a man and woman aged 67 and 66.
The crash occurred around 2pm and its causes are as-yet unknown. As WTSP reported, “The Tesla entered the lot and somehow crashed into the back of the semi.” Citing a crash report, WTSP notes that the man in the Tesla was wearing a seatbelt, though it remains unknown whether the woman was too. As the New York Post and the WTSP report observed, it also remains unknown whether the Tesla was using automated driving technology. A Highway Patrol officer said in a statement to the Post that authorities would investigate whether any such features were in use at the time of the crash.
Notably, the NHTSA is already investigating numerous instances in which automated driving features have been involved in car crashes: a total of 37 such crashes since 2016, of which “30 involved Teslas, including 11 fatal crashes that have killed 15,” per the Post. The agency also has active investigations into Tesla cars that collided with “parked emergency vehicles” while using the Autopilot feature, and into a pattern of instances in which the cars, again on Autopilot, have braked “for no apparent reason.”
The NHTSA’s new administrator, Dr. Steven Cliff, said in an interview with the Associated Press last month the agency would look closely at automated driving technology under his leadership. He reportedly “cautioned that while he believes federal standards are needed to regulate driver assisted technology, he wants to avoid rushing to embrace new rules that might potentially end up compromising safety.” The AP notes that the NHTSA is developing new standards that will require automated braking technology “on all new passenger vehicles and heavy trucks,” though the details of these regulations remain undisclosed.
More information on the recent Tesla crash in Florida is available via the New York Post and WTSP. More information on the NHTSA’s plans to regulate automated driving technology is available via the Associated Press.