According to data provided by Plainsite, a group that prides itself on providing data “in plain sight” and legal transparency, as well as The Detroit News, which reported the story, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued at least five subpoenas for information related to Tesla crashes in the past five months. Many speculate that the subpoenas suggest that the NHTSA is preparing to bring forth a formal investigation against the automaker.
NHTSA Requests Information About Autopilot and Emergency Braking
Reports indicate that the federal agency has specifically asked Tesla to provide information regarding the results of tests on a sub-component of Tesla sedans’ emergency braking system, which is automatic, as well as data on autopilot functions and the number of vehicles sold both with and without autopilot systems. Clearly, the requests highlight that the NHTSA is concerned about the vehicles’ autopilot abilities. While Tesla has described the requests for information as “business as usual,” the former director of the Office of Defects Investigation at the NHTSA, Frank Borris, said that the NHTSA issuing subpoenas is anything but normal, and likely presages a formal investigation.
Indeed, the subpoenas are not random. At least two subpoenas were issued by the NHTSA after fatal crash in March 2018 that occurred when a Tesla vehicle (on autopilot) slammed into the side of semi-truck, killing the driver. In August of 2019, a similar accident involving a Tesla vehicle on autopilot occurred, this time in Russia.
Tesla Claims Autopilot Is Safe
When questioned about the safety of autopilot, the automaker staunchly defends its autopilot technology. To be sure, Elon Musk, Tesla Chief Executive Officer, has stated that the system improves safety and handles more monitoring of the roadway than a human driver could possibly do alone. He also provides data, claiming that Tesla’s reports show that there is one accident for every 3.27 miles driven when the autopilot feature is activated, compared with one accident for every 1.41 million miles traveled in manual mode. Despite what Tesla claims, investigators have concluded in the past that at least one fatal crash involving a Tesla vehicle occurred because the vehicle permitted the driver to engage autopilot on a road for which it was not designed.
Consumer Reports has called for an active inquiry into the automaker’s autopilot technology and, while offering praise to the technology for some of its aspects, suggests that it lags behind in others. For example, while Tesla’s autopilot system took 24 seconds to warn a driver to regain focus and pay attention, General Motors’ system took a mere four seconds.
Reach Out to a Lawyer if You’ve Been in a Crash
If you have been in a motor vehicle accident involving a Tesla on autopilot or any other vehicle type, you may have a claim for compensation against the vehicle manufacturer, the other driver involved, or another party. To learn more about your rights and options after a serious crash, please reach out to a qualified car accident attorney at the Julian C. Gomez Law Firm in McAllen and request a free consultation.