Feds to Investigate Deadly Tesla Crash in California

January 13, 2020

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the crash of a speeding Tesla that killed two people in a Los Angeles suburb, the agency announced.

The agency wouldn’t say whether the Tesla Model S was on Autopilot when it crashed on Dec. 29 in Gardena. That system is designed to automatically change lanes and keep a safe distance from other vehicles.

The black Tesla had left a freeway and was moving at a high rate of speed when it ran a red light and slammed into a Honda Civic at an intersection, police said.

A man and woman in the Civic died at the scene. A man and woman in the Tesla were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. No arrests were immediately made.

An NHTSA statement said the agency has assigned its special crash investigation team to inspect the car and the crash scene. That team has inspected a total of 13 crashes involving Tesla vehicles believed to be operating on the Autopilot system. Results were published in two of those cases, one of which involved Autopilot. Results are pending in the other 10 cases.

Another Tesla crash killed a woman in January in Indiana. State police said the driver, Derrick N. Monet, 25, of Prescott Valley, Ariz., was seriously injured after he rear-ended a fire truck parked along an interstate. His wife, Jenna N. Monet, 23, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Derrick Monet told investigators he regularly uses Autopilot mode, but didn’t recall whether he had it activated at the time.

Earlier this month, a Tesla struck a police cruiser and a disabled vehicle in Connecticut but nobody was seriously hurt. The driver said he was using the Autopilot system and had looked around to check on his dog in the back seat.

Both Tesla and the NHTSA have advised that advanced driver assist systems such as Autopilot aren’t entirely autonomous but require human drivers to pay attention at all times. But several crashes — some fatal — have been blamed on driver inattention linked to overconfidence in such systems. In one crash report, the National Transportation Safety Board referred to it as “automation complacency.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has criticized Tesla’s Autopilot. In September, that agency said that in a 2018 crash in Culver City where a Tesla hit a fire truck, the design of the Autopilot system “permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task.” Nobody was hurt in that accident.

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Insurance Journal West January 13, 2020
January 13, 2020
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