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Federal regulators are investigating a fatal crash in California involving a VinFast electric SUV that killed four occupants. The vehicle, equipped with automated steering features, veered off the road, crashed into a pole and tree, and caught fire. The owner had previously complained about the SUV’s steering performance, although it is unclear if that played a role in the crash. The SUV was being driven by one of the owner’s coworkers with their family at the time of the accident, resulting in the deaths of two children in the back seat.

The owner had reported instances of the SUV unexpectedly steering to the right while they were driving, with the automatic driving assistance features turned on by default. In at least two cases, the driver was able to regain control and steer the vehicle back into its lane. Concerns were raised that similar issues may have occurred when the coworker was driving the vehicle, leading to the fatal crash. It is still uncertain if the vehicle’s Advanced Driving Assistance features were a factor in the accident, as speed has also been cited as a possible cause in media reports.

NHTSA’s Special Crash Investigations unit is looking into the incident, as it involves new technologies and unusual circumstances. The agency will document the crash circumstances and the subsequent fire to determine the cause of the tragic event. VinFast and NHTSA are cooperating in the investigation, with the Pleasanton Police also conducting their inquiry into the accident. Once their work is completed, the findings will be shared with the public to shed light on the causes of the crash.

This incident adds to a series of investigations by NHTSA into various automakers, including Tesla and Ford, regarding incidents involving the use of ADAS systems. The agency is focusing on understanding the adoption and performance of advanced driving assistance features and their impact on road safety. As automated driving technologies become more prevalent in vehicles, regulators are keen on ensuring their safety and functionality to prevent accidents like the one involving the VinFast SUV in California.

The tragic crash serves as a reminder of the importance of thorough testing and validation of automated driving systems before deploying them in production vehicles. The concerns raised by the owner about the steering performance of the VinFast SUV highlight the need for robust testing procedures to detect and address any potential issues that could endanger occupants. Collaborative efforts between regulators, automakers, and law enforcement are essential in investigating such incidents to improve safety standards and prevent future accidents resulting from the misuse of advanced driving technologies.

As the investigation into the crash continues, NHTSA will analyze the data and evidence to understand the sequence of events leading to the fatal accident. The agency’s findings will inform future regulations and guidelines for the use of automated driving systems in vehicles to ensure their safe operation on the roads. It is crucial for automakers to prioritize the safety of their vehicles and conduct thorough testing to prevent tragic incidents like the one involving the VinFast electric SUV in California. The outcome of the investigation will shape the future of automated driving technologies and their integration into modern vehicles.

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