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Tesla Stock Slides as U.S. Agency Opens Formal Autopilot Safety Probe

The NHTSA said its probe will cover 765,000 Tesla vehicles made between 2014 and 2021.

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report hares traded lower Monday after the clean-energy carmaker said U.S. authorities had opened a formal probe into its autopilot system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it has identified 31 Tesla accidents over the past three-and-a-half years, including four in 2021, that were connected to the use of Tesla's 'Autopilot' system. The agency will look at system imbedded in around 765,000 Tesla Model X, Model Y, Model S and Model 3 sedans made between 2014 and 2021.  

"The involved subject vehicles were all confirmed to have been engaged in either Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control during the approach to the crashes," the NHTSA said, adding it will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver's engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation."

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Tesla shares were marked 4.9% lower in early trading Monday to change hands at $682.00 each. 

Tesla's Autopilot system, despite its name, is not an autonomous driving program, and the company has consistently warned its customers that they must be engaged with the car and the driving process when it is activated, adding it should only be used on divided highways.

Earlier this year, an incident in involving a Model S sedan took the lives of two passengers following a fiery crash outside of Houston, Texas, reportedly occurred while the car was operating under autopilot.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that "data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD". The NHTSA said at the time it was "actively engaged with local law enforcement and Tesla to learn more about the details of the crash and will take appropriate steps when we have more information".