DETROIT — A U.S. investigation into Teslas operating on partially automated driving systems that have crashed into parked emergency vehicles has moved a step closer to a recall.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday that it is upgrading the probe to an engineering analysis, another sign of increased scrutiny of the electric vehicle maker and automated systems that perform at least some driving tasks.
An engineering analysis is the final stage of an investigation, and in most cases NHTSA decides within a year if there should be a recall or the probe should be closed.
The agency said it has reports of 14 crashes into emergency vehicles with 15 injuries and one death. Tesla reported two more crashes to the agency, in California and South Carolina.
The probe now covers 830,000 vehicles, almost everything that Austin, Texas-based Tesla has sold in the U.S. since the start of the 2014 model year.
The agency says the investigation will evaluate additional data, vehicle performance and “explore the degree to which Autopilot and associated Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks undermining the effectiveness of the driver’s supervision.”
The agency began its inquiry in August of last year after a string of crashes since 2018 in which Teslas using the company’s Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control systems hit vehicles at scenes where first responders used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, or cones warning of hazards.