— The opening of a federal Tesla Autopilot crash investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has caused a different U.S. safety agency to stand and applaud.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has worked since last year to convince NHTSA to evaluate how Tesla's Autopilot system operates in real-world driving conditions.
Following a 2018 fatal crash of a Tesla Model X in California, the NTSB investigated and recommended numerous actions NHTSA should take concerning the use of Tesla's Autopilot system.
Investigators from the NTSB said NHTSA should evaluate Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot to learn its operating limitations. NHTSA was also told it should study how the system can be misused by a driver and how and if a driver can operate Autopilot outside its intended design.
The NTSB also recommended a study to determine if the Autopilot design creates an unreasonable risk to safety.
The NTSB got its wish in August when NHTSA opened an investigation into multiple aspects of Autopilot and how vehicles with the features activated seem to be prone to crash into parked emergency vehicles.
The investigation began with 11 crashes of Tesla vehicles into police vehicles and firetrucks. But days ago another crash was added to the investigation after a Tesla Model 3 slammed into a Florida Highway Patrol car.
The crash is now part of the federal investigation because the Model 3 driver said the car had Autopilot engaged when the crash occurred.
Although Tesla's Autopilot system is the main focus of the federal investigation, the NTSB says federal safety regulators cannot stop there concerning advanced driving assistance technology.
"NHTSA should 'develop a method to verify that manufacturers of vehicles equipped with Level 2 vehicle automation incorporate system safeguards that limit the use of automated vehicle control systems to those conditions for which they were designed and for NHTSA to develop standards for driver monitoring systems.'" — National Transportation Safety Board