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“Authorities: Automated System Engaged in Fatal Texas Crash Involving Electric Ford SUV”

Federal investigators disclosed on Thursday that the operator of a Ford electric SUV involved in a fatal crash in Texas in February had engaged the company’s semi-automated driving system before the accident.

According to a preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), data retrieved from the 2022 Mustang Mach E SUV indicated that Ford’s “Blue Cruise” driver-assist system was active prior to the Feb. 24 collision.

The incident is one of two recent fatal accidents involving Ford Mustang Mach Es currently being investigated by both the NTSB and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These agencies frequently dispatch teams to investigate incidents linked to automated driving technologies.

While the NTSB can only issue recommendations, the NHTSA possesses the authority to take enforcement actions, including initiating recalls for safety concerns.

In both instances, the Mach Es collided with stationary vehicles on freeways during nighttime hours, and neither the driver nor the automated system managed to prevent the crashes. Ford emphasizes on its website that its driving systems are not substitutes for human drivers, who must remain prepared to assume control at all times.

A Ford spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the NTSB’s report, reiterating the company’s commitment to cooperating fully with the investigations, as previously stated.

The Texas crash occurred on Interstate 10 in San Antonio, where the Mach E rear-ended a 1999 Honda CR-V that was stationary in the middle of three lanes around 9:50 p.m., resulting in the death of the CR-V’s 56-year-old driver.

An eyewitness who managed to avoid the CR-V informed investigators that neither its tail lights nor hazard lights were functioning at the time.

The NTSB intends to issue safety recommendations to mitigate the risk of similar accidents, prompted by ongoing interest in advanced driver assistance systems and the human-technology interaction aspect.

The second crash involving a Mach E occurred around 3:20 a.m. on March 3 in the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia, claiming the lives of two individuals. The Ford SUV collided with a stationary Hyundai Elantra, which had previously collided with a Toyota Prius. During the crash, the driver of the Prius, who was outside his vehicle, was also struck and fatally injured.

The police are conducting a criminal investigation into the Philadelphia crash, with a potential charge of homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence being considered against the 23-year-old female driver of the Mach E.

Ford’s Blue Cruise system allows drivers to relinquish control of the steering wheel while it manages steering, braking, and acceleration on highways. The system, however, is not fully autonomous and requires drivers to remain attentive to the road. It is designed to operate on 97% of controlled-access highways in the U.S. and Canada, according to Ford.

Notably, fully autonomous vehicles are not commercially available in the U.S. Both the NHTSA and the NTSB have previously investigated numerous incidents involving partially automated driving systems, primarily Tesla’s Autopilot, focusing on system functionality in their analyses.

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