Two killed in crash involving Tesla and parked truck; feds investigating

July 13, 2022

Tyson Fisher


Another fatal crash involving a Tesla car and a tractor-trailer has prompted investigations by multiple jurisdictions, including the federal government.

On July 6, a Tesla being driven by a 66-year-old female crashed into the back of a parked tractor-trailer at the Paynes Prairie Rest Area in Alachua County, Fla. According to a crash report, the driver and a 67-year-old male passenger were killed. The truck driver was not injured.

As of July 13, it was unknown whether the Autopilot system was engaged. That feature has been the subject of several fatal crashes involving Tesla vehicles. The Florida Highway Patrol told Land Line it is too early into its traffic homicide investigation to make that determination.

Tesla crash AutoPilot
Scene of a fatal Tesla crash involving a tractor-trailer parked at a Florida rest area. (Photo courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol)

The Florida Highway Patrol is not the only entity investigating the crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also sent a crew to the scene of the crash. NHTSA is expected to launch a special crash investigation.

This is only the most recent fatal crash involving a Tesla vehicle. The general public, transportation stakeholders and some government officials have raised concerns regarding the Autopilot feature.

NHTSA is involved in a separate Tesla-related investigation. The agency is investigating Tesla’s Passenger Play feature in hundreds of thousands of vehicles. Called Passenger Play, a person riding can play video games on a Tesla’s front center touchscreen. However, a software update allows anyone to play at any time.

In January, vehicular manslaughter charges were filed against the owner of a Tesla Model S. It is the first time felony charges have stemmed from a crash involving an automated driving system like Tesla’s Autopilot feature.

In November 2020, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sent a letter to NHTSA expressing its concerns over Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system. In its letter, OOIDA pointed out that the majority of truck-involved crashes are caused by passenger vehicles. Consequently, misleading technology like Tesla’s autonomous system jeopardizes the safety of truckers and other motorists.

“Therefore, we are dismayed with the administration’s lack of oversight of automated driving technologies currently deployed on public roadways that jeopardize truckers’ safety,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer wrote. “The use of unfinished and unproven automated technologies poses a significant threat to small-business truckers, and we urge you to take action to protect all road users and promote greater transparency and oversight of their development.” LL