NHTSA investigating Tesla crash that killed 3 in Newport Beach on Pacific Coast Highway


DETROIT — The U.S. government’s Highway Safety Agency has dispatched a team to investigate the possibility that a Tesla involved in a crash in California that killed three people was running on a partially automated driving system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed Wednesday that it had dispatched a special accident investigation team to investigate the May 12 accident on the Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach.

The investigation is part of a larger investigation by the agency into crashes involving advanced driver assistance systems such as Tesla’s Autopilot. Since 2016, the agency has sent teams to 34 accidents in which the systems were either in use or suspected to be working. Of the 34, 28 involved Teslas, according to an NHTSA document released Wednesday.

Fifteen people died in the crashes NHTSA is investigating, and at least 15 others were injured. Of the deaths, 14 occurred in crashes involving Teslas, the documents show.

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In addition to specific crashes, NHTSA has ongoing investigations into Teslas on Autopilot crashing into emergency vehicles parked along roadways, as well as an investigation into Autopilot braking for no apparent reason.

Last June, NHTSA ordered automakers to report any crashes on public roads involving vehicles that are fully autonomous or have partially automated driver assistance systems.

Partially automated systems can keep a vehicle centered in its lane and a safe distance from vehicles ahead.

NHTSA says the data can show if there are common patterns in crashes involving the systems.

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A message was left Wednesday seeking comment from Tesla, which is headquartered in Austin, Texas. NHTSA would not comment beyond the release of the document.

Tesla warns drivers using Autopilot, as well as its “Full Self-Driving” system, that cars cannot drive themselves and drivers must be prepared to intervene at all times.

NHTSA is also investigating two crashes involving Volvos, a Navya shuttle crash, two involving Cadillacs, one in a Lexus and one in a Hyundai. One of Volvo’s crashes was an Uber self-driving test vehicle that ran over and killed an Arizona pedestrian in March 2018.

In the Newport Beach crash, police were called around 12:45 p.m. and found a 2022 Tesla Model S sedan had crashed into a sidewalk and then struck construction equipment on the south side of the road .

Authorities found two men and a woman dead in the car, and three construction workers suffered minor injuries, police said.

The Newport Beach Police Department said it called in its major accident investigation team.

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