WASHINGTON — On a Monday morning in January 2018, a Tesla Model S on Autopilot struck the rear of a fire truck parked diagonally on a freeway in Culver City, Calif.
The fire truck, which was responding to an earlier collision, had its emergency lights on when the 2014 model-year electric car crashed into it.
The incident is now one of 11 Tesla crashes involving Autopilot and first-responder scenes being investigated by NHTSA. The formal safety probe covers an estimated 765,000 Teslas from the 2014 to 2021 model years. Most of the crashes occurred after dark and in total resulted in 17 injuries and one death.
Safety experts say the new investigation could be a turning point for holding Tesla accountable if the agency suspects a defect with its advanced driver-assistance system. Longer term, the experts say, data gathered from the Autopilot probe and the agency's crash-report mandate issued in June could spell action by U.S. auto safety regulators to address driver-assist technology and effective driver monitoring more broadly.