The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it plans a probe of a fatal Tesla crash that occurred in Los Angeles on Sunday. The Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed the report that a motorist in a black 2016 Model S ran a red light and struck a 2006 Honda Civic on Sunday, killing two people in that car. The two occupants who were present inside the Tesla were taken to a nearby hospital who suffered non-life threatening injuries.
It is not clear whether Tesla Autopilot — the company’s advanced driver assistance systems, may have been engaged at the time of the fatal crash, and if it is so, whether it might have caused the incident. NHTSA, which is the part of the Department of Transportation, has the power to issue mandatory vehicle recalls if it feels necessary, typically it can be done when an automaker has failed to determine and fix dangerous flaws in their vehicles, systems and components within.
The agency said that NHTSA’s special crash investigation (SCI) program will initiate a crash scene and vehicle inspection of the crash of a Tesla Model S. Tesla has refused to comment on the incident.
NHTSA program had previously also initiated probes of 13 incidents or accidents involving Tesla electric vehicles with Autopilot possibly active. The results of eleven of those investigations are still pending.
NHTSA often works in partnership with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which is an independent federal agency that investigates every civil aviation accident in the U.S., and the accidents involving vehicles on the ground or in the water. The NTSB said that it is not investigating the latest, fatal Tesla Model S crash.
The agency has several investigations underway looking into advanced driving systems including Tesla Autopilot. The NTSB clashed with Tesla CEO Elon Musk after there was a crash on March 23, 2018 which killed Apple engineer Walter Huang.
He was driving a 2017 Tesla Model X with Tesla’s Autopilot systems being engaged. The federal probe is still going on but expected to be published at the latest by the first quarter of 2020. In April 2019, Musk promised fans and shareholders to feature complete in self-driving the latest by this year. Tesla has not announced the completion of a “feature complete self-driving system” in 2019.