by David Shepardson and Hyunjoo Jin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. road safety authority said Monday it has opened a formal investigation into Autopilot, the driver assistance system of electric vehicle maker Tesla, after a series of accidents involving emergency vehicles.
As of January 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified 11 crashes in which Tesla cars are involved. Of these 11 accidents, four occurred this year and the most recent took place last month in San Diego, California, the US agency said.
She said she had received reports of a total of 17 injured and one death in these crashes.
At the end of the investigation, the federal agency could decide to take no action or request a recall of the vehicles, which could lead to limits on the use of the Autopilot system.
Tesla stock fell 3.6% after the NHTSA announcement.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, the group’s boss, Elon Musk, has repeatedly defended Autopilot, saying last April via Twitter that the system was close to reducing “by ten the risk of accidents” compared to a conventional vehicle.
The preliminary investigation concerns the Autopilot of Models Y, X, S and 3 put on the market between 2014 and 2021 in the United States, or approximately 765,000 vehicles.
NHTSA said it was “confirmed that the affected vehicles all had either autopilot or cruise control engaged as crashes approached.”
The agency, which has carried out several inspections in recent years, said most accidents took place at night, near special signs such as emergency vehicle warning lights, safety flares or cones. signaling.
The NHTSA said its investigation “will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist and enforce driver participation in dynamic driving while the Autopilot system is in operation.”
Before possibly requiring the recall of vehicles, the NHTSA must first decide to evolve the preliminary investigation into a technical analysis.
The Autopilot, which allows the driver in certain situations to take their hands off the wheel, has been operating in at least three Tesla vehicles involved in fatal crashes in the United States since 2016, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said.
(Report David Shepardson in Washington and Hyunjoo Jin in Oakland, French version Laetitia Volga, edited by Jean Terzian)