- The NHTSA is investigating a collision between a Tesla sedan and a tractor trailer in Detroit.
- The passenger of the Tesla was hospitalized in critical condition, the Detroit police said.
- Police don’t think that the driver was using Autopilot software – but haven’t ruled it out.
Tesla is working alongside police and transport authorities to investigate a collision between a Tesla sedan and a tractor trailer in Michigan that left at least one person in critical condition.
The Detroit police told Reuters on Monday that the collision happened at 3:20 a.m. on March 11 in southwestern Detroit when a Tesla sedan drove through an intersection, struck a tractor trailer, and became wedged under it.
Both the driver and the passenger of the Tesla were taken to a local hospital, where the passenger was listed in critical condition with head trauma and leg injuries, the police said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Insider it had sent a team to investigate the “violent” crash.
David LeValley, assistant chief of Detroit Police, said in a press conference Tuesdaythat the driver had said he wasn’t Tesla’s Autopilot at the time of the crash. He also said that video footage showed the vehicle making evasive manoeuvres to avoid the crash which LeValley said suggests that the driver was in control.
“All the indications we have at this point are that the vehicle was not in Autopilot mode, that the driver was in control of the vehicle at the time of the crash,” he said.
But he added that authorities, including NHTSA and both state and city police, were still investigating and had been in communication with Tesla.
LeValley said that the investigators would remove the vehicle’s black box and SD card, which would allow them to identify whether the driver was using Autopilot at the time of the crash.
The driver has been charged with reckless driving causing serious injury, LeValley said. He added that there was no indication that the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, and that it was likely that speed was a “major factor” in the crash.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
Less than a week later, another Tesla vehicle was involved in a second crash, also in Michigan. On Wednesday, Michigan State Police said that a man driving a Tesla Model Y with Autopilot engaged had crashed into one of their cars that had pulled over with its emergency lights on. There were no injuries, police said.
As well as the two crashes in Michigan, the NHTSA said it is actively probing 21 other crashes involving Teslas.
Tesla’s full self-driving doesn’t make a car fully autonomous
Tesla’s electric vehicles come with Autopilot, a feature that allows the cars to brake, accelerate, and steer automatically.
Tesla also sells its full self-driving software as a $10,000 one-off add-on and plans to release it as a subscription model this summer. FSD allows cars to park themselves, change lanes, and identify both stop signs and traffic lights.
The company released a beta version to some Tesla owners and employees in October, which lets drivers try some updates before they’re fully rolled out, and about 2,000 users now have access. Tesla plans to widely release the system in 2021.
Neither Autopilot nor FSD makes a Tesla car fully autonomous.
At least three drivers have died while using Tesla’s Autopilot.
Joshua Brown died in May 2016 when his Model S was struck by a semitruck in Florida while traveling at 74 mph using Autopilot. Tesla said at the time that “neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.”
An Apple engineer, Walter Huang, died in California in March 2018 when his Tesla Model X crashed into a highway barrier while on Autopilot. His family launched a lawsuit against the company, alleging the car was “defective in its design.”
In March 2019, Jeremy Beren Banner died when his Tesla Model 3 collided with a tractor trailer at 68 mph while using its Autopilot mode. Banner’s family sued the carmaker, alleging wrongful death.
The National Transportation Safety Board has called for increased scrutiny of self-driving software.
In February, the board sent a letter to its sister agency NHTSA, asking for updated requirements for carmakers testing software like Tesla’s on public roads.
The letter mentioned Tesla by name 16 times and said Tesla was testing its software on public roads “with limited oversight or reporting requirements.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Friday that the company had revoked access for drivers in the full-self-driving beta who didn’t pay close attention to the road but added that there were “no accidents to date” in the beta.