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From Late June




US Probe Tesla Autopilot Incidents

August 17, 2021

“Elon has a problem”

When a Tesla has a prang or worse still catches fire, news spreads far and wide. No other brand is subjected to such scrutiny and social media storms. However, when the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gets involved, Elon has a problem.

Autopilot Probe

The NHTSA is investigating eleven crashes via the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). It covers crashes that involve a mix of models and software configurations that required emergency services and involved one or more vehicles.

Most importantly all incidents include vehicles that were operating via Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control.


What Is Autopilot?

The system is designed to operate the car via minimal human input. These systems exist in many vehicles but Tesla blow all others out of the water.

In fact the system is so advanced legislators here can’t keep up, resulting in dormant software yet to be activated.

I’ve used the system any number of times, it’s cutting edge, very intuitive and unlike any other system on the planet.

It has also scared the shit out of me at times. It’s pretty disconcerting when a Model 3 or S hits the brakes hard on a motorway, or a Model X lurches towards a concrete divider.

When these “quirks” pop up the key is not to overreact, regaining control is simply a matter of holding the wheel with more caution or jumping on the throttle if need be.

The other matter is this, all of the above is just not on when it comes to driving on a public road. I have had many other makes and models produce their own mishaps, so it’s not confined to Tesla.

Tesla in my opinion has sailed very close to using drivers as guinea pigs. As a result when the world’s most advanced autonomous driving system is at the centre of serious incidents, it has to be examined more closely.


So What’s Happening?

This is exactly what the NHTSA open investigation report states.


Since January 2018, the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has identified eleven crashes in which Tesla models of various configurations have encountered first responder scenes and subsequently struck one or more vehicles involved with those scenes. The incidents are listed at the end of this summary by date, city, and state.

Most incidents took place after dark and the crash scenes encountered included scene control measures such as first responder vehicle lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, and road cones. The involved subject vehicles were all confirmed to have been engaged in either Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control during the approach to the crashes.

Autopilot is an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) in which the vehicle maintains its speed and lane centering when engaged within its Operational Design Domain (ODD). With the ADAS active, the driver still holds primary responsibility for Object and Event Detection and Response (OEDR), e.g., identification of obstacles in the roadway or adverse maneuvers by neighboring vehicles during the Dynamic Driving Task (DDT).

ODI has opened a Preliminary Evaluation of the SAE Level 2 ADAS system (Autopilot) in the Model Year 2014-2021 Models Y, X, S,and 3. The investigation will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation. The investigation will additionally assess the OEDR by vehicles when engaged in Autopilot mode, and ODD in which the Autopilot mode is functional. The investigation will also include examination of the contributing circumstances for the confirmed crashes listed below and other similar crashes.


  • 07/10/2021 – San Diego, California
  • 05/19/2021 – Miami, Florida
  • 03/17/2021 – Lansing, Michigan
  • 02/27/2021 – Montgomery County, Texas
  • 08/26/2020 – Charlotte, North Carolina 07/30/2020 – Cochise County, Arizona
  • 01/22/2020 – West Bridgewater, Massachusetts
  • 12/29/2019 – Cloverdale, Indiana
  • 12/10/2019 – Norwalk, Connecticut
  • 05/29/2018 – Laguna Beach, California
  • 01/22/2018 – Culver City, California

The world will be watching!