As a result of an elderly couple’s automobile slamming into the rear of a Walmart truck and tearing off its roof, safety regulators have launched their 37th investigation into a Tesla collision.
The collision, which occurred on Wednesday at the Paynes Prairie Rest Area just south of Gainesville, Florida, is being looked into by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Both the 66-year-old female driver and the 67-year-old male passenger of the vehicle died. According to Florida state law, neither the couple’s age nor their relationship to one another has been publicised. The two were visiting from Lompoc in California.
The Tesla, a 2015 S model, was travelling southbound on I-75 when it turned off the road and into the rest stop ramp ‘for an unexplained cause,’ according to a statement from Florida Highway Patrol.
The 66-year-old female driver and a 67-year-old man passenger were killed when the automobile continued into the parking lot and struck the trailer of an 18-wheeler belonging to Walmart.
Photos from the scene showed a scarlet Tesla with its front end wedged beneath a Walmart trailer and its top end rapidly shearing back past the front doors.
At the scene, the individuals were pronounced dead.
The incident is being looked at by the NHTSA as the second deadly Tesla crash in a week.
They claim it is too soon to speculate on a reason, but the investigation into the event is focused on Tesla’s contentious autopilot self-driving system.
There is currently no evidence that the Florida crash involved an ambulance, police car, or fire truck. Previous autopilot-related crashes were linked to the Teslas’ cameras being confused by flashing lights and reflectors on stopped emergency vehicles, but there is currently no evidence to support this.
‘That is a consideration that will be explored during our investigation,’ he said.
The 2015 Teslas were the first to use the company’s autopilot technology, but did not include fully automated options. Instead they used a number of features intended to assist drivers, including automated in-lane steering, and automated lane changing prompted by the driver’s commands.
‘The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car,’ Tesla wrote in a blog post announcing describing the then-new features. They’re warned to keep their hands on the wheel at all time.
The accident on Wednesday was very similar to a number of Tesla incidents that have happened since 2015 in which drivers lost their lives when their vehicles collided with tractor trucks and ended up underneath them.
According to Reuters, the NHTSA has started 37 special collision investigations involving Tesla vehicles since 2016 when the use of sophisticated driver aid systems like autopilot was suspected.
17 collision fatalities in all, including the Florida accident, have been documented in those Tesla investigations.
The NHTSA routinely launches more than 100 special accident investigations each year on new technology and other possible car safety problems, which have in the past, for example, assisted in the development of air bag safety regulations.
This current probe comes after the NHTSA indicated it will be looking into an incident in which a man, 39, apparently drove a Tesla on Autopilot while under the influence of drugs and struck and killed a lady.
On June 7, the Tesla reportedly flew into the air, hit the woman, and killed her, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. According to NBC 7 San Diego, the man was charged with vehicular manslaughter and drugged driving in connection with the event.
Frank Shoaf, who is thought to have been high from inhaling household materials while driving on Othello Avenue at approximately 8.30 am, is thought to have been involved in the incident.
He confessed to running a red light, hitting a dip, and then hitting Cassandra May, 40, before going airborne two feet.
The woman was struck by Shoaf, and it is said that her body flew seven to eight feet in the air before landing 25 feet away. She was taken to the hospital, where she passed away later.
As he drove on, his car hit a no parking sign, lost one of its tyres, and ended up in a bush outside a nearby KFC.
After nearly a dozen collisions in which Tesla vehicles collided with stopped emergency vehicles, the NHTSA began a preliminary study to evaluate the operation of the system in 765,000 vehicles. Last month, it reported that it had detected six further crashes.
In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff stated that he intended to wrap up the Tesla Autopilot investigation “as quickly as we can, but I also want to get it right. There’s a lot of information that we need to comb through.”
A NHTSA analysis indicated that during a ten-month period, self-driving or driver assistance technology was to blame for over 400 automobile accidents in the US.
Six people died and five people suffered serious injuries in those accidents, which took place between July 1, 2021, and May 15, this year. The great majority of those crashes, 273 out of 392, involved Teslas.
After the NHTSA issued a directive in June 2021 requiring automakers and technology companies to immediately report any crashes involving advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and vehicles outfitted with automated driving systems being tested on public roads, international automakers made the disclosures to the agency.
90 Hondas and 10 Subarus were involved in the remaining 12 crashes employing ADAS technology that were reported by 12 OEMs. Less than five instances were recorded by each of Ford Motor, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, and Porsche.