As a result of a couple’s car slamming into the back of a Walmart truck and tearing off its roof, safety officials have launched their 37th investigation into a Tesla accident.
The collision, which occurred on Wednesday at the Paynes Prairie Rest Area just south of Gainesville, Florida, is being looked into by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Both the 66-year-old female driver and the 67-year-old male passenger of the vehicle died. According to Florida state law, neither the couple’s age nor their relationship to one another has been disclosed. The two were visiting from Lompoc in California.
Another deadly crash
The Tesla, a 2015 S model, was traveling southbound on I-75 when it turned off the road and onto the rest stop ramp ‘for an unknown reason,’ according to a statement from Florida Highway Patrol.
The 66-year-old female driver and a 67-year-old male passenger were killed when the car continued through the parking lot and struck the trailer of an 18-wheeler belonging to Walmart.
Photos from the scene showed a red Tesla with its front end wedged under a Walmart trailer and its top end violently shearing back past the front doors.
At the scene, the victims were pronounced dead.
The incident is being looked into by the NHTSA as the second fatal Tesla crash in a week.
They claim it is too soon to speculate on a cause, but the investigation into the incident is focused on Tesla’s contentious autopilot self-driving technology.
Authorities are investigating whether automated features were involved in the collision, according to Highway Patrol Lt. P.V. Riordan, who stated this in an email.
There is currently no evidence that the Florida crash involved an ambulance, police car, or fire truck. Previous autopilot-related crashes were linked to the Teslas’ cameras being confused by flashing lights and reflectors on stopped emergency vehicles, but there is currently no evidence to support this.
“In the course of our investigation, that is a consideration that will be examined,” he said.
Although the company’s autopilot technology was used for the first time in the 2015 Teslas, fully automated options were not available. Instead, they made use of a variety of features meant to help drivers, such as automated lane changing and automated in-lane steering.
‘The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car,’ Tesla wrote in a blog post announcing the new features at the time. They are advised to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times.
Other previous deadly crashes
The crash on Wednesday was strikingly similar to a number of Tesla crashes that have occurred since 2015, in which drivers were killed when their cars collided with tractor trailers and ended up beneath them.
According to Reuters, the NHTSA has opened 37 special crash investigations involving Tesla vehicles in which advanced driver assistance systems such as autopilot were suspected of being used since 2016.
The NHTSA typically opens more than 100 special crash investigations each year into new technologies and other potential auto safety problems, which have in the past, for example, assisted in the development of air bag safety regulations.
This latest investigation comes after the NHTSA announced it would be looking into an incident in which a man, 39, reportedly drove a Tesla on Autopilot while under the influence of drugs and struck and killed a woman.
After about a dozen crashes in which Tesla vehicles collided with stopped emergency vehicles, the NHTSA opened a preliminary evaluation to evaluate the performance of the system in 765,000 vehicles. Last month, it reported that it had identified six additional crashes.
Six people died and five people suffered serious injuries in those crashes, which took place between July 1, 2021, and May 15, this year. The vast majority of those crashes, 273 out of 392, involved Teslas.