In December 2019, Nicholas Ciarlone was put on probation for one year after his Tesla rammed into a Massachusetts State Police vehicle and an SUV on Route 24 in West Bridgewater.
According to NBC10 Boston, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now further investigating the case, along with 19 others involving Tesla vehicles that were using driver assistance technology at the time of a collision.
Special investigations conducted by the NHTSA usually deal with spotting issues with newer technology, and vehicle Autopilot technology is exactly that.
“It’s good to see there’s a priority on it. The bigger question is, ‘What is it going to translate to and how will it lead to anything meaningful to protect the public?'”, said Sean Kane, widely known for monitoring auto safety. He’s hopeful the investigation will bring to light the throbbing need to monitor and regulate driver assistance technology that puts people at risk of a crash every day.
Ciarlone has already admitted to his negligence while driving in court, stating that his Tesla was in Autopilot and that he “must not have been paying attention”. However, the case has not yet yielded any court findings.
This came after Massachusetts senator Ed Markey wrote a letter to Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, and demanded that he rebrand the Autopilot feature as drivers tend to become too reliant on it.
Tesla markets its Autopilot technology with a set of guidelines — such as to be attentive even with the assistance technology engaged, and says that Autopilot-enabled vehicles are safer to drive, as per its latest and ongoing safety reports.