The federal government’s major auto safety agency is significantly expanding an investigation into Tesla and its Autopilot driver assistance system to determine whether the technology poses a safety risk.
The agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said Thursday it was upgrading its preliminary evaluation of Autopilot to technical analysis, a more intensive level of scrutiny needed before a recall can be ordered.
The analysis will look at whether Autopilot is failing to prevent drivers from distracting their attention from the road and engaging in other predictable and risky behaviors while using the system.
NHTSA said it had not determined whether Autopilot has defects that could cause cars to crash while engaged.
The broader survey includes 830,000 vehicles sold in the United States. They include all four Tesla cars – the S, X, 3 and Y models – in model years from 2014 to 2021.
The agency’s preliminary assessment focused on 11 incidents in which Tesla cars running under Autopilot control crashed into parked emergency services and with lights flashing. In that review, NHTSA said Thursday that the agency became aware of 191 accidents — not limited to those involving emergency vehicles — that warranted further investigation.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the agency’s move.
This is a story in development. Check for updates.