DETROIT — U.S. safety regulators are turning up the heat on Tesla, announcing investigations into steering wheels coming off some SUVs and a fatal crash involving a Tesla suspected of using an automated driving system when it ran into a parked firetruck in Walnut Creek.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday it is launching a special crash-investigation team to probe the Feb. 18 crash involving a Tesla Model S and a ladder truck from the Contra Costa County fire department.

The firetruck probe is part of a larger investigation by the agency into multiple instances of Teslas using the automaker’s Autopilot system crashing into parked emergency vehicles that are tending to other crashes. NHTSA has become more aggressive in pursuing safety problems with Teslas in the past year, announcing multiple recalls and investigations.

The driver of the 2014 Tesla Model S was killed in the crash and a passenger critically injured. Four firefighters were treated for minor injuries, and the $1.4 million ladder truck was damaged.

NHTSA is investigating how the Autopilot system detects and responds to emergency vehicles parked on highways. At least 15 Teslas have crashed into emergency vehicles nationwide while using the system.

Authorities said the truck had its lights on and was parked diagonally on northbound lanes of Interstate 680 to protect responders to an earlier accident that did not result in injuries.

RELATED: Tesla driver dies after crashing into parked fire truck on East Bay freeway

A NHTSA spokeswoman said she couldn’t comment on an open investigation when asked if the Teslas are posing a danger to emergency workers.

NHTSA has been scrutinizing Teslas more intensely in the past year, seeking several recalls and opening investigations.

Earlier Wednesday, the agency posted documents revealing that it’s investigating steering wheels that can detach from the steering column on as many as 120,000 Model Y SUVs.

The agency said it received two complaints in which 2023 Model Ys were delivered to customers with a missing bolt that holds the wheel to the steering column. A friction fit held the steering wheels on, but they separated when force was exerted while the SUVs were being driven.

The agency says in documents posted on its website Wednesday that both incidents happened while the SUVs had low mileage on them.

In one complaint filed with NHTSA, an owner said he was driving with his family on Route 1 in Woodbridge, …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


US launches probe into fatal East Bay crash involving a Tesla believed to be using automated driving system

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