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Two Tesla Crashes Kill Three In One Day - One Brings Federal Scrutiny

In an unusual day of accidents for Tesla, three motorists have lost their lives in two separate crashes. One has federal investigators taking a close look. (Images linked in story)

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December 29th was a sad day in the chronicles of Tesla crash reporting. Three motorists died in two separate crashes involving Tesla cars. One Indiana crash was eerily similar to many previous crashes in which a Tesla slams at full speed into the back of a parked firetruck. The second is reportedly being investigated by federal agencies.

Note: Where are the pictures? We have opted not to publish the images of this fatal accident. You can view them here if you wish.

That second crash involved a Tesla vehicle in California that police say was moving fast having exited a freeway when the vehicle proceeded through a red light and slammed into a Honda Civic. The driver and passenger of the Civic were killed in the crash. This crash has received broad coverage by local, national, and even international news outlets. Each is reporting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investingating this crash. Since vehicles kill motorists regularly going through stoplights and is not typically cause for a a federal investigation, we presume the focus of the federal investigators will be whether Tesla's driver-assist technology, its newest iteration of which is called "Full Self Driving," was in use when the Tesla vehicle crashed. Both NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have played roles in investigations and alalysis of crashes involving Tesla Autopilot in the past.

Tesla claimed in early 2019 that it has developed technology that can allow its vehicles to drive themselves in most common situaitons. Hence its new name for the technology "Full Self-Driving" or FSD as Tesla fans call it. In a recent story, Torque News wondered why Tesla has not updated its fleet of vehicles to put this ability to use as a safety system. See our report, "Tesla Vehicles Just Months From Full Self-Driving Can Still Run Redlights." Tesla commonly does use over the air updates to improve the safety of its fleet. Notably, when Tesla improved the Model 3's brake settings using an OTA update.

If this fatal accident involved a new version of Tesla's Autopilot the story is indeed newsworthy. However, we don't know yet if the system was in use at the time of the crash. Torque News has reached out to Tesla for more details. We will update this story when that information becomes available.

Related Stories:
- (January) Tesla Police Blotter News - Tesla Driver Hits Parked Firetruck - Blames Autopilot
- Second Tesla Model S Slams Into the Back Of Firetruck - Occupant Says Car Was In Autopilot Mode
- Report: Model X In Latest Tesla Autopilot Death Accelerated And Steered Into Barrier
- Another Tesla On Autopilot Hits Another Emergency Vehicle - You Can't Make This Stuff Up
- "Stop This Nonsense": Tesla's Autopilot and Its Problems With Stationary Object Detection
- NTSB Report Eerily Predicts Tesla Model X Autopilot Fatality 6 Months In Advance
- Tesla Tries To Address Autopilot's Fatal Flaw Ahead of Full Self Driving Update

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career and dedicated himself to chasing his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and connect with him at Linkedin.

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DeanMcManis (not verified)    January 2, 2020 - 1:53PM

The truth is that is could well be that NEITHER one of these accidents was at all related to Autopilot. Although your headlines do not say as much. The holiday season is dangerous as traffic numbers go up, people become impatient and distracted, and many drink and drive. I tried to minimize my travel over the holidays for just this reason, and I'm certain that the accident rate and death toll are higher for ALL cars and trucks at this time. I hope that if you find out that these accidents were not related to Autopilot after all, that you will report that fact as well.

John Goreham    January 2, 2020 - 5:11PM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

True. I didn't mention Autopilot in any of the titles or teasers for that very reason. I suspect that more is known about the redlight running crash than is being revealed by Tesla and the Feds right now. It's been four days since it happened. Based on prior crashes and the resulting reporting, I assume Tesla already knows if Autopilot was being used or not. If it was not, what do the feds care about that particular crash? It will be interesting to see. I reached out to Tesla and asked if Autopilot was being used.