© Reuters. The TESLA logo is seen outside a dealership in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., April 26, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. safety authorities said on Friday they are investigating whether an advanced driver assistance system was in use when a Tesla (NASDAQ:) struck a 17-year-old student that exited a school bus in North Carolina.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Friday it would open the special crash investigation into a incident in which 51-year-old driver of a 2022 Tesla Model Y in Halifax County on March 15 reportedly failed to stop for a school bus displaying warning lights and struck the student. The driver was charged in the incident, according to local media quoting North Carolina State Police.

NHTSA said Tesla’s advanced driver assistance systems were suspected of being in use in the North Carolina crash. State Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since 2016, NHTSA has opened 40 Tesla special crash investigations where advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot were suspected of being used with 20 crash deaths reported. The agency has ruled out Tesla Autopilot use in three other special crash investigations.

Autopilot enables cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes without driver intervention but Tesla says the feature requires “active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

Last month, NHTSA opened an investigation into a February fatal crash of a 2014 Tesla Model S involving a fire truck in Contra Costa County, California. The local fire department said a Tesla struck one of its fire trucks and the Tesla driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

In June, NHTSA upgraded to an engineering analysis its defect probe into 830,000 Tesla vehicles with driver assistance system Autopilot that involves crashes with parked emergency vehicles including fire trucks. That step is necessary before the agency could demand a recall.

NHTSA is reviewing whether Tesla vehicles adequately ensure drivers are paying attention. Previously, the agency said evidence suggested drivers in many crashes under review had complied with Tesla’s alert strategy that seeks to compel driver attention, raising questions about its effectiveness.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

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