US agency to open investigation into fatal Tesla crash in Florida

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A Tesla logo is painted on a wall inside a Tesla dealership in New York, U.S., April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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WASHINGTON, July 8 (Reuters) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Friday it would open a special investigation on Wednesday into a crash in Florida that killed a 66-year-old Tesla driver and a 67-year-old passenger. .

A 2015 Tesla rammed a tractor-trailer parked in the Gainesville area at a rest area off Interstate 75, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The two people aboard the Tesla, who were from Lompoc, Calif., were pronounced dead at the scene. A patrol spokesman said it was unclear whether the autopilot was being used.

On Thursday, NHTSA confirmed it had opened a special investigation into a fatal pedestrian crash in California involving a 2018 Tesla Model 3 in which an advanced driver assistance system was suspected to have been used.

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NHTSA previously opened 36 special investigations into crashes – including the California accident – involving Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) vehicles in which advanced driver assistance systems like Autopilot were suspected of being used since 2016.

A total of 17 accidental deaths have been reported in these Tesla investigations, including the Florida accident.

NHTSA typically opens more than 100 special crash investigations each year into emerging technologies and other potential auto safety issues that have, for example, previously helped develop airbag safety rules.

Tesla, which has disbanded its press office, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Florida crash bears similarities to a series of accidents being investigated by NHTSA.

In June, NHTSA upgraded its fault probe in 830,000 Tesla vehicles with Autopilot, a necessary step before it can request a recall.

NHTSA opened a preliminary assessment to assess the system’s performance in 765,000 vehicles after a dozen crashes in which Tesla vehicles hit stopped emergency vehicles – and said last month it identified six additional crashes.

NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff told Reuters on Wednesday he wanted to complete the Tesla Autopilot investigation “as quickly as possible, but I also want to get it right. There’s a lot of information that we have to go through with a fine-toothed comb”.

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Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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