In this photo provided by the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, firefighters are seen at the scene of a fatal crash involving a Tesla and a Contra Costa County fire truck on February 18, 2023 in Contra Costa, California.
Contra Costa County Fire Protection District
Federal vehicle safety regulators launched a new, special crash investigation into a fatal collision that involved a Tesla Model S sedans and a firetruck last month in Walnut Creek, California, CNBC has confirmed.
According to records obtained by CNBC from the California Highway Patrol and the Contra Costa County Fire Department, the driver of the Tesla died, a passenger was seriously injured and four firefighters inside the firetruck were taken to the hospital after the crash.
The Associated Press first reported upon special investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to fire department records after the incident on February 18, the firetruck was parked in the middle of an interstate highway to protect other first responders who were pulling a disabled vehicle from the area at the time. The Tesla vehicle was rammed into it.
NHTSA and the CHP have launched separate investigations into the accident.
“It is unclear whether drug or alcohol influence was a factor in this accident,” the CHP wrote in a statement after the fatal incident. It was unable to determine whether the Tesla was operated with any driver assistance or automation. Was or was not at the time of the accident.”
Both CHP and NHTSA want to know whether Tesla’s driver-assistance systems, which are marketed in the United States as Autopilot and full self-driving options, caused the crash.
All new Tesla vehicles in the US come with a standard driver-assistance package called Autopilot. Customers who pay Tesla a monthly subscription fee of $199 or $15,000 in advance can also get additional driver-assistance features as part of a premium package called FSD, which stands for Full Self-Driving. Tesla also allows FSD customers to sign up for the FSD Beta, which is a way to test new features that haven’t been fully debugged on public roads.
Despite their brand name, Tesla does not manufacture driverless vehicles or systems. The company cautions drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and ready to handle steering or braking at any moment.
The crash investigation is part of a broader NHTSA investigation of Tesla’s driver-assistance systems, and how they perform around parked first responder vehicles.
NHTSA began a “preliminary evaluation” of Tesla’s Autopilot system, according to records on the agency’s website. August 13, 2021, “The initiation of the investigation was prompted by an accumulation of accidents in which Tesla vehicles, operating with Autopilot, struck first responder vehicles already on the roadway or side of the road, leading to pre-existing collision scenes.” Used to see,” it said.
According to the NHTSA report, At least 14 Tesla first responder vehicles have crashed while using the Autopilot system.
NHTSA expanded the investigation to an “engineering analysis” in the spring of 2022 to determine whether Tesla’s systems “may increase human factors or behavioral safety risks by reducing the effectiveness of driver supervision.”
In general terms, NHTSA is trying to determine whether Tesla’s Autopilot, FSD and other driver-assistance features cause motorists to be so distracted from the road that they would drive more safely without them.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. NHTSA does not comment on open investigations.