By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. auto safety agency said on Monday it is investigating a crash in Detroit on Thursday involving a Tesla that became wedged underneath a tractor-trailer and left a passenger in critical condition.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Monday it is "aware of the violent crash that occurred on March 11 in Detroit involving a Tesla and a tractor trailer. We have launched a Special Crash Investigation (SCI) team to investigate the crash."
The crash occured at 3:20 a.m. Thursday when a white Tesla drove through an intersection and struck a trailer, Detroit police said Monday.
Both the driver and the passenger were taken to a local hospital, where the passenger was listed in critical condition. Police said the crash is still under investigation.
WDIV-TV in Detroit aired video of a badly damaged Tesla crushed underneath a tractor-trailer and said the injured passenger was a 21-year-old woman.
NHTSA has previously launched around at least 14 SCI teams to investigate Tesla crashes that may be tied to the vehicle’s advanced Autopilot driver assistance system, but taken no action against the automaker as a result of those probes.
It is not clear if Autopilot may have been a factor in the Detroit crash.
Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Autopilot has been engaged in at least three Tesla vehicles involved in fatal U.S. crashes since 2016.
NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board have probed other crashes in which a Tesla struck a trailer, including two fatal crashes in Florida.
In a 2019 crash, a Tesla struck a tractor trailer and the roof was sheared off as it passed underneath the trailer and stopped three-tenths of a mile south of the collision. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
In May 2016, a Tesla Model S driver was killed near Williston, Florida, using Autopilot when he slammed into a tractor trailer that also sheared off the vehicle roof.
Tesla advises drivers they must keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention while using Autopilot. However, some Tesla drivers say they are able to avoid putting their hands on the wheel for extended periods when using Autopilot.
In February 2020, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sharply criticized Tesla lack of system safeguards in a fatal 2018 Autopilot crash in California and called U.S. regulators' approach in overseeing the driver assistance system "misguided."
The NTSB can only make recommendations, while NHTSA regulates U.S. vehicles.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Lincoln Feast)