A Tesla Model S struck a firetruck that was parked on a California interstate on Saturday in an accident that ended up being fatal. The cause of the accident is currently undetermined.
A firetruck parked on Interstate 680, shielding a cleanup crew from another accident, was struck by the Model S. Four firefighters occupied the emergency vehicle when it was struck and were all treated for minor injuries, according to the AP.
Slow down and move over when approaching emergency vehicles. Truck 1 was struck by a Tesla while blocking I-680 lanes from a previous accident. Driver pronounced dead on-scene; passenger was extricated & transported to hospital. Four firefighters also transported for evaluation. pic.twitter.com/YCGn8We1bK
— Con Fire PIO (@ContraCostaFire) February 18, 2023
There is currently no information on what caused the accident, as investigators have not determined whether the collision was caused by the driver being intoxicated or whether the vehicle was operating under Autopilot, the company’s driver assistance feature.
Tracie Dutter, Assistant Chief of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, said the truck had its lights on and was parked diagonally across northbound lanes to protect first responders who were taking care of debris that remained on the roadway from an earlier accident.
Tesla accidents routinely garner media attention because of Autopilot, although the company’s name is cleared in many instances. Recently, an investigation into a crash that occurred in Texas in 2021 that claimed the lives of two people determined that Tesla’s driver assistance features were not responsible.
However, this accident is different because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a probe in late 2021 that aims to determine issues with Tesla Autopilot and collisions with parked emergency vehicles. In the probe, the agency aimed to evaluate “vehicle crashes with in-road or roadside first responders,” evaluating approximately 765,000 cars built from 2014 to 2021.
In July 2022, the NHTSA expanded the probe to 830,000 vehicles and upgraded the investigation to an “Engineering Analysis.” “The investigation will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation,” the NHTSA said.
37 of 43 crashes that were analyzed showed the driver’s hands were on the steering wheel in the last second before the collision:
“Of those crashes involving first responder or roadside maintenance vehicles for which car log data existed, under the driver engagement strategy alerts were presented to only two of the drivers within 5 minutes of the crash. This suggests that drivers may be compliant with the driver engagement strategy as designed.”
Tesla has taken a few steps to improve safety in related instances. In September 2021, the company released software version 2021.24.12, which contained a feature that would help Model 3 and Model Y vehicles detect lights from an emergency vehicle when using Autosteer, informing the driver to slow down.
In October 2022, Tesla partnered with Emergency Safety Solutions, Inc. to implement the company’s Hazard Enhanced Location Protocol (H.E.L.P) technology.
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