US opens special probe into fatal Tesla crash

WASHINGTON, July 18 (Reuters) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Tuesday it is opening a special crash investigation into a fatal accident in California involving a 2018 Tesla Model 3 suspected of relying on advanced driver assistance systems.

The July 5 crash in South Lake Tahoe killed the driver of a Subaru Impreza after a head-on collision with the Tesla Model 3.

Since 2016, the U.S. auto safety regulator has opened more than three dozen Tesla special crash investigations in cases where advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot were suspected of being used, with 20 crash deaths reported.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is the first new special crash investigation involving Tesla and the suspected use of driver assistance systems since two were opened in March, including one into the February fatal crash in California involving a 2014 Tesla (TSLA.O) Model S and a fire truck in Contra Costa County, California.

A local California fire department said a Tesla struck one of its fire trucks and that the Tesla driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

The other investigation in March involves a 2022 Tesla Model Y that struck and seriously injured a 17-year-old student who got off a school bus in North Carolina.

The July 5 crash also claimed the life of a three-month-old, who died several days later from injuries sustained in the crash, a California Highway Patrol spokesperson said Tuesday.

“There are no charges pending at this time. Vehicle and car seat inspections are currently being done,” the spokesperson added.

The NHTSA typically opens more than 100 “special” crash investigations annually into emerging technologies and other potential auto safety issues that have, for instance, previously helped to develop safety rules on air bags.

Those are separate from defect investigations opened by the agency to determine if a safety recall is warranted.

In June, the NHTSA upgraded to an engineering analysis its defect probe into 830,000 Tesla vehicles with driver assistance system Autopilot and crashes with parked emergency vehicles, including fire trucks.

The NHTSA said earlier this month it was seeking updated responses and current data from Tesla in the Autopilot probe by Wednesday.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Chizu Nomiyama and Deepa Babington

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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