US agency probes driver assistance system use in fatal Ford crash

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Monday it has opened an investigation into a recent Ford Mustang Mach-E fatal crash in San Antonio, Texas, where authorities suspect an advanced driver assistance system was in use.

On Friday, the National Transportation Safety Board opened a separate investigation into the Feb. 24 crash, saying initial information indicated the Ford struck the rear of a Honda CR-V that was stationary in a traffic lane on Interstate Highway 10.

A San Antonio police report said the Ford had "partial automation" engaged at the time of the crash.

NHTSA is opening a special crash investigation into the Fatal Ford accident. The agency typically opens more than 100 special crash investigations annually into emerging technologies and other potential auto safety issues.

Since 2016, NHTSA has opened more than three dozen Tesla special crash investigations where advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot were suspected of being used with 20 crash deaths reported. This is NHTSA's first special crash probe involving a Ford advanced system.

The police report said the driver of the Honda CR-V, 56-year-old Jeffrey Allen Johnson of Austin, was taken to a hospital and later pronounced dead.

Ford has said its BlueCruise is an advanced hands-free driving system that operates on 97% of U.S. and Canadian highways with no intersections or traffic signals.

The NTSB said it was investigating the crash "due to its continued interest in advanced driver assistance systems and how vehicle operators interact with these technologies."

A Ford spokesperson said the automaker "reported this incident to NHTSA as soon as we were made aware, and we are actively researching all available information. Safety is a top priority for all of us at Ford, and we will collaborate fully with any resulting investigation."

The NTSB has opened several investigations in recent years into advanced driver assistance systems, including Tesla's Autopilot.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)