WASHINGTON — U.S. vehicle safety regulators have opened a preliminary evaluation to assess potential issues with Tesla's advanced driver-assistance system known as Autopilot after a series of crashes around the country.
The investigation was opened Friday and covers Tesla models Y, S, X and 3 from the 2014-2021 model years, according to a document filed by NHTSA. An estimated 765,000 vehicles could be affected.
The agency's Office of Defects Investigation said it has identified 11 crashes since January 2018 in which various Tesla models were driven near first responder scenes and subsequently struck one or more vehicles involved with those scenes. In addition to the 11 crashes, the agency's report cites 17 injuries and one death.
The Tesla vehicles involved in the crashes were all confirmed to "have been engaged in either Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control during the approach to the crashes," the agency said in its report.
"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 report said.
Through the investigation, U.S. safety regulators will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist and enforce the driver's engagement with driving tasks while Autopilot is in use. The investigation also will assess the how vehicles in Autopilot mode identify and respond to obstacles in the roadway and the operational design of the system.
NHTSA's probe also will examine the contributing circumstances for the 11 crashes and "other similar crashes," the agency said.
The investigation comes after multiple reports of Tesla vehicle crashes around the country — some of which have involved the electric vehicle maker's Autopilot driver-assist system.
NHTSA has opened at least 30 investigations into Tesla crashes since 2016.
The agency in June issued an order requiring automakers and other operators of vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems, such as Autopilot, or fully automated driving systems to report crashes where the system was engaged during or immediately before the crash.