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Tesla Model 3 fleet suspended by major Paris taxi firm after fatal accident

Elon Musk walks next to a screen showing an image of a Tesla Model 3 car. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Tesla, the electric-vehicle company, is facing fresh scrutiny of its popular Model 3 sedans in France following a fatal weekend crash.

G7, a top Paris taxi firm, said it had temporarily suspended its fleet of 37 Tesla Model 3s after an off-duty driver taking his family to a restaurant on Saturday evening was involved in an accident. The Model 3, Tesla’s most affordable vehicle, was Europe’s top-selling car in September.

In the accident, the car hit at least two pedestrians and a glass container that shattered on impact, before crashing into a van, according to French media reports. At least one person was killed and 20 others were injured, several of them seriously, Paris prosecutors told reporters Tuesday.

“Our decision to temporarily shut down our Tesla Model 3 fleet is an act of precaution,” G7 wrote on Twitter. Police are investigating the incident.

Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, the transport minister, said on French radio Wednesday that there was no indication that a technical fault was to blame for the incident and that he was not worried about Model 3 safety.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. It was unclear if the driver was using Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance system at the time of the crash. G7 deputy chief executive Yann Ricordel said the driver had tried to brake but instead the vehicle accelerated, Reuters reported.

In the United States, there have been reports of more than 200 incidents involving Teslas unexpectedly accelerating and crashing. The federal car-safety agency concluded in January that the incidents were the fault of drivers confusing their brake and accelerator pedals, and were not due to vehicle defects.

Tesla told France’s Le Monde newspaper that the Paris accident was not caused by accelerator blockage or a sudden disruption of the cruise control. The world’s most valuable listed automaker was unable to physically inspect the Model 3 sedan, which was badly damaged, according to Le Monde, but the company claimed that the vehicle suffered “no technical faults.”

Tesla’s recent Full Self-Driving update made cars go haywire. It may be the excuse regulators needed.

The Biden administration has stepped up enforcement of federal safety regulations regarding advanced driver-assistance systems — particularly Tesla’s habit of issuing software fixes without reporting underlying problems, following several recent incidents.

This past summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a formal probe of Tesla’s Autopilot software after nearly a dozen crashes involving parked emergency vehicles. A number of people have reportedly died in the United States in crashes involving the driver-assistance system. (Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has touted data suggesting Tesla vehicles using Autopilot are safer than the average car.)

The French crash probe also comes as Tesla is facing lawsuits from workers alleging sexual harassment at its facilities.

Musk isn’t shying away from the spotlight, however. On Tuesday, he engaged in a public spat on Twitter with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) over taxes, with Musk describing her as “Senator Karen” after she accused him of “freeloading” by not paying his fair share. In recent times, “Karen” has become a catchall term for an entitled, demanding White woman who polices other people’s behavior.

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