Tesla Fatal Head-on Crash Probed by NHTSA

Federal regulators examining accident details of Tesla collision with Subaru in California

Graham Hope

July 21, 2023

2 Min Read

America’s auto safety regulator is probing another fatal road accident involving a Tesla.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a special investigation into a crash in California earlier this month.

The July 5 incident saw a 2013 Subaru Impreza collide with a 2018 Tesla Model S on the Pioneer Trail in South Lake Tahoe.

The California Highway Patrol told local media that the two vehicles met head-on, with the Impreza believed to be traveling at a speed of 55 mph and the Tesla at around 45 mph.

Two people were killed in the crash, the driver of the Impreza and an infant who was in the Tesla.

It has emerged that the NHTSA is officially looking into the circumstances of the crash, with its focus likely on whether Tesla’s driver assistance technology was engaged and what, if any, role it played in the incident.

The NHTSA normally opens about 100 special investigations each year, primarily concentrated on emerging technologies, which helps it keep tabs on new features in production cars and consider new regulations if required.

Tesla’s Autopilot and Enhanced Autopilot features have increasingly become a focus for the regulator over the past few years. The features give the cars the ability to automatically steer, brake and accelerate, and even assist in changing lanes.

Despite their names, human supervision is required at all times. Tesla says on its website: “Active safety features are designed to assist drivers, but cannot respond in every situation. It is your responsibility to stay alert, drive safely and be in control of your car at all times.”

However, the features have come under increased scrutiny. There have been growing concerns that the driver assistance technology is being advertised in a misleading manner, despite the online disclaimer. At the same time, the number of special investigations opened by the NHTSA into crashes involving Teslas has continued to mount, with nearly 40 launched since 2016, some involving fatalities with the most recent in Contra Costa County, California, in February.

The NHTSA has also been looking into a series of collisions involving Teslas running Autopilot and first-responder vehicles, and earlier this month wrote to the company requesting detailed information on what hardware and software is fitted to hundreds of thousands of Tesla models across the United States.

Tesla no longer has a public relations department, and has not commented on news of the latest special investigation.

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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