New fatal Tesla crash: US road traffic regulator probes possible Autopilot link

US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigates another crash potentially involving Autopilot.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into an incident involving a 2016 Tesla Model S, which reportedly ran a red light in Los Angeles and killed two occupants of a Honda Civic.   

As Reuters reports, it's the 12th NHTSA probe of a Tesla crash that may be linked to the vehicle's Autopilot driver assistance system and follows the regulator's investigation into a Model 3 in Autopilot mode that rear-ended a parked police car in Connecticut in early December

The NHTSA has not said whether Autopilot was engaged during the fatal crash last Sunday in a Los Angeles suburb. 

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KTLA reported that a speeding male driver of a black Model 3 ran a red light as he exited 91 Freeway in Gardena and slammed into the Honda Civic at an intersection. The Civic's two occupants were pronounced dead at the scene, while the Tesla's two occupants were hospitalized with non life-threatening injuries. 

NHTSA said in a statement it had assigned a special crash investigation team to inspect the car and the scene of the incident. 

The agency said it has investigated a dozen crashes involving Tesla vehicles suspected to have had Autopilot engaged. 

Last week the passenger of a Tesla was killed in Indiana after the driver, her husband, rear-ended a parked fire truck in Indiana, though the driver could not recall whether Autopilot was engaged at the time. 

Following a fatal crash caused by a Tesla in Autopilot mode in early 2018, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said its driver-assistance system would "never be perfect"

However, Musk still contended that "the probability of an accident with autopilot is just less" than when the driver has hands on the wheel. Nonetheless, Tesla maintains that drivers should always pay attention, even when Autopilot is engaged.  

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded in a previous crash report that drivers often place too much faith in automation systems, referring to the phenomenon as 'automation complacency'.

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The NTSB last year found that neither Autopilot nor the driver attempted to avoid crashing into a truck that killed a Tesla driver.

ZDNet has contacted Tesla for comment and will update this article if it responds. 

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