COLORADO SPRINGS — Electric vehicles continue to grow in popularity as reports show the number of Tesla vehicles registered in Colorado continues to rise. Meanwhile, federal investigators are reviewing the safety of autopilot technology featured in the vehicles.
In Colorado Tesla vehicles continue to be a popular purchase. Last year Tesla vehicles made up 52% of electric vehicle sales in our state. At least 24,670 electric vehicles were registered statewide. These new statistics landed Denver and Colorado Springs in national rankings for both Tesla vehicles on the road and new registrations.
As more people make the leap into Tesla ownership, the U.S. government is opening up the biggest review of Tesla's Autopilot technology.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will look into 765,000 vehicles. The formal investigation comes after a series of crashes involving parked emergency vehicles. The agency says the cars were on autopilot or traffic aware cruise control when they hit first responder vehicles that were using flashing lights, flares or illuminated arrows.
The investigation could potentially lead to a vehicle recall.
At University of Colorado Colorado Springs Gedare Bloom is also studying vehicles with modern technology for cybersecurity risks and says putting these vehicles to the test will make them better and safer in the end.
"Scrutiny never hurts consumers. at the end of the day the more transparency we have into what businesses and governments are doing the more protection we usually get and the safer we become," said Bloom.
Earlier this year in Wisconsin, deputies got a call about a man asleep at the wheel of one of these Tesla vehicles utilizing the autopilot technology.
"There's a black Tesla and the driver's sleeping. But the car's driving because it's like an electric car," said the caller.
As the deputy begins to pull up, the driver appears to wake up and pulls over about 90 seconds after the sirens started.
"How are we doing sir?," the officer says as he approaches the vehicle."The reason I'm stopping you is I followed you for about 2 miles and you were sleeping. You were totally like this (leaning over) in the car. Why would we drive like that?"
Ultimately the driver was cited for inattentive driving and his Tesla was towed.
"This will be the first time I've ever dealt with this, but there's gotta be some restrictions that say you don't just put it in autopilot and go to sleep," the officer said.
News5 spoke with law enforcement agencies here in Colorado they said they weren't aware of any crashes caused by autopiloted vehicles at this point, however, crash investigation forms like the one used by Colorado State Patrol now have a section that tracks this issues with autonomous vehicles. This is becoming a standard for crash investigators everywhere.