An ill-fated 2014 Tesla Model S is suspected to be operating in Autopilot during a fatal crash last month in California, according to US investigators. The collision occurred when the all-electric sedan struck a fire truck, resulting in the driver’s death and critical injuries to a passenger.
On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that it had dispatched a specialized crash investigation team to probe the February 18 crash, which resulted in emergency responders cutting the Tesla open to extricate a passenger. The crash also resulted in minor injuries to four Contra Costa County firefighters.
The NHTSA’s current inquiry into the fatal California Tesla crash is part of a broader investigation by the agency. The investigation deals with multiple incidents involving Teslas in Autopilot colliding with stationary emergency vehicles that were attending to other accidents, as noted in a report from the Associated Press.
Officials noted that during the February 18 incident, the fire truck was parked at a diagonal angle with its lights on in the northbound lanes of the freeway. This was done to safeguard first responders who were responding to a previous accident. At about 4 a.m., the 2014 Tesla Model S crashed into the fire truck. The all-electric car’s driver was declared dead at the scene.
The collision between the Model S and the fire truck was quite severe. As per the AP, it took several hours to clear the freeway, and the fire truck involved in the incident needed to be towed away. That being said, the investigation into the potential involvement of Autopilot in the fatal crash is interesting since the vehicle is a bit on the older side of Teslas.
Tesla started rolling out its Autopilot driver-assist system in vehicles that were produced after September 2014. This means that if the ill-fated Model S involved in the California crash was produced prior to September 2014, it would not have Autopilot capabilities at all. Needless to say, the results of the NHTSA’s investigation into the incident would be quite interesting.