Telsa parked outside the state Capitol building Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Vehicles with automated driving features have been involved in nearly 400 recent crashes, according to a Wednesday report from federal regulators which U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal described as alarming during a morning conference. 

The report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 392 accidents in which an automated driving system was active within 30 seconds of the crash. The accidents resulted in six deaths and five serious injuries. More than 69% of the accidents involved vehicles manufactured by Tesla, according to the report.

Blumenthal, who appeared alongside U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-MA, and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL, to discuss the findings, said the numbers should prompt greater oversight of the new technology.

“What’s been released today is certainly a cause for deep alarm,” Blumenthal said. “In fact, it is a ringing alarm bell affirming many of the warnings that we’ve made over the years. The frequency and severity of these crashes is a cause for yellow lights flashing and maybe red lights flashing on some of this technology and we need more investigation.”

Blumenthal and Markey said they planned to ask the highway safety agency to demand more regulatory action. 

Wednesday’s report represents the first since NHTSA began requiring manufacturers to report accidents that occurred close to when certain driver assistance systems were operating. Of the 392 reports, 367 occurred between July 2021 and May 15, 2022. Most (273) were made by electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla. 

During the press conference, Markey said he was concerned by reports involving Tesla’s Autopilot software.

“We have seen a never-ending parade of reports about Autopilot operating in ways that skirt our auto safety laws and endanger the public,” Markey said. “From rolling through stop signs to phantom breaking. Tesla has argued that Autopilot makes us safer but this report provides further evidence slamming the breaks on those claims.”

Tesla did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment for this story. 

In a press release Wednesday, NHTSA’s Administrator Steven Cliff said driver assistance systems could eventually help make roads safer. 

“New vehicle technologies have the potential to help prevent crashes, reduce crash severity and save lives, and the Department is interested in fostering technologies that are proven to do so; collecting this data is an important step in that effort,” Cliff said. “As we gather more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world.”

In the meantime, Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, worried about the cyclists, pedestrians and motorists who share the road with the new tech. 

“While more time is needed to analyze the data released this morning, it’s clear U.S. road-users are unwitting participants in the beta testing of automated driving technology,” Chase said during Wednesday’s press conference.