Senate Wants Answers About Fatal Tesla Crash

A U.S. Senate committee wants a briefing within two weeks from Tesla Motors Inc. about its Autopilot, an automated driving feature that was activated in a May fatal crash in Florida.

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, who chairs the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent Tesla Chairman and CEO Elon Musk a letter seeking information on whether the Autopilot feature — which allows the car to steer, change lanes and manage speed for a driver — performed as intended in the crash and what the carmaker is doing to educate consumers about it.

“I request that you direct company representatives to brief committee staff on the details of this incident, including the technology that was in use at the time, Tesla’s actions in response, and the company’s cooperation with NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), by no later than July 29,” Thune wrote in the letter.

Joshua Brown, an Ohio resident, was killed in a Tesla Model S that crashed in Williston, Florida, on May 7 with the Autopilot mode engaged. Regulators and police say a semitrailer turned left in front of the Model S and the car’s roof struck the underside of the trailer and passed underneath. Autopilot also was engaged on a Tesla Model X during another crash when the SUV hit railing wires along the side of a Montana highway.

Tesla could not immediately be reached for comment on the letter.

Last week, Consumer Reports called for Tesla to disable the Autopilot feature until the system is updated to confirm a driver’s hands remain on the steering wheel at all times. The consumer advocate also wants Tesla to rename the feature to make it clear that vehicles are not fully self-driving cars.

Musk previously said he would not disable the feature.

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