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US agency examining Tesla unintended acceleration complaint

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government's auto safety agency is looking into allegations that all three of Tesla's electric vehicles can suddenly accelerate on their own.

An unidentified person petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking for an investigation into the problem. An agency document outlining the allegations shows 127 owner complaints to the government that include 110 crashes and 52 injuries.

The agency says the allegations include about 500,000 Tesla Model 3, Model S and Model X vehicles from the 2013 through 2019 model years. The agency's investigations office will evaluate the petition and decide if it should open a formal probe.

Messages were left Friday morning seeking comment from Tesla.

The petition adds to a growing list of federal investigations into the Palo Alto, California, automaker's vehicles.

NHTSA is investigating three December crashes involving Tesla vehicles in which three people were killed. The agency's special crash investigations unit sent teams to Gardena, California, and near Terre Haute, Indiana to probe two fatal crashes. Another crash in Connecticut also is under investigation.

Also, the National Transportation Safety Board will hold a hearing Feb. 25 on a separate fatal crash in Mountain View, California, involving a Tesla that was operating on the company's Autopilot driver assist system.

Authorities are trying to determine whether the cars were operating on Autopilot, a system designed to keep a car in its lane and a safe distance from other vehicles. Autopilot also can change lanes on its own.

Tesla has said repeatedly that its Autopilot system is designed only to assist drivers, who must still pay attention and be ready to intervene at all times. The company contends that Teslas with Autopilot are safer than vehicles without it, but cautions that the system does not prevent all crashes.

NHTSA’s crash program has inspected 23 crashes involving vehicles that the agency believed were operating on some form of partially automated advanced driver assist system. Fourteen of these cases involved Tesla models. The team investigates more than 100 crashes per year.

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