A federal investigation has been launched into a fatal car crash in California involving a Tesla vehicle, which was allegedly running on a partially automated driving system at the time.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed on Wednesday that it had dispatched a special accident investigation team to investigate the incident, which left three people dead. It is one of 35 crashes involving advanced driver assistance systems, including Tesla’s Autopilot, that have been investigated by the agency since 2016.
The recent crash unfolded in the early hours of May 12, when a 2022 Tesla Model S hit the sidewalk and then slammed into construction equipment along the Coast Highway in Newport Beach, according to documents released by the NHTS. When first responders arrived at the scene around 12:45 a.m., they found three people dead inside the electric car.
They were identified last week as Crystal McCallum, 34, of Texas; Andrew James Chaves, 32, of Arizona; and Wayne Walter Swanson Jr., 40, of Newport Beach, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Three construction workers were also injured in the chaos, but their injuries were not considered life-threatening, authorities said.
Newport Beach police declined to say whether or not the Tesla was on autopilot at the time, citing the open investigation.
Tesla’s Autopilot is a multi-task driver assistance system that allows motorists to take their hands off the wheel at certain times. Still, Tesla says the features “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
Elon Musk, founder of the electric car company, has previously argued that the feature is safer than allowing real people to drive the vehicles.
Of the nearly three dozen crashes investigated by the NTHS since 2016, all are believed to have involved cars relying on Autopilot, including 28 Tesla vehicles.
Fifteen people died in these incidents and at least 15 others were injured. Of the deaths, 14 occurred in crashes involving Teslas, the documents show.
With dispatch services