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NTSB investigating latest fatal Tesla crash and battery fire

WASHINGTON —The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Friday it will send a team to investigate a Tesla vehicle crash this week that killed two people in Coral Gables, Florida.

Coral Gables police have said it is unclear whether the Tesla Model 3 involved in the crash in a residential area on Monday evening was using the electric vehicle company’s driver-assistance system, called Autopilot. The two people killed were badly burned and have not yet been positively identified.

The NTSB, which makes safety recommendations but does not regulate automakers, said its investigation will focus on the operation of the vehicle and the post-crash fire that consumed it after it struck a tree. The agency said three NTSB investigators will arrive in the area on Monday.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NTSB has previously investigated three fatal Tesla crashes in which Autopilot was involved. Autopilot handles some driving tasks such as steering, braking and acceleration and allows drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel at times but Tesla has said drivers must still actively supervise the vehicle when using the system.

Tesla vehicles have large battery packs that sometimes have been involved in lengthy fires after crashes.

The NTSB is also investigating an April Tesla crash in Texas that killed two people. Local police have said they believe that crash occurred with no one in the driver’s seat.

Another federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has said it is gathering information about the Coral Gables crash but has not decided whether to send a crash investigation team.

The NHTSA in August opened a formal safety probe into 765,000 Tesla vehicles and Autopilot after 11 crashes involving first-responders such as police or fire vehicles.

The agency also has opened 33 individual investigations into Tesla crashes involving 11 deaths since 2016 in which use of advanced driver assistance systems was suspected. NHTSA has ruled out Autopilot use in three of those crashes that were non-fatal.

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