Fatal Tesla Autopilot crash investigation: Criticism but no recall

The latest development for Tesla revealed as autonomous vehicles remain under the microscope

Fatal Tesla Autopilot crash investigation: Criticism but no recall

Insurance News

By Lucy Hook

Regulators investigating the fatal Tesla Autopilot crash that led to the death of a man in Florida last year have cleared the model of defects, but criticized Tesla for calling the system ‘Autopilot’ when it in fact requires the full attention of the driver.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the system had no defects at the time of the May 7 crash last year, a Toronto Star report said, finding no cause to order a recall of the vehicles.

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Joshua Brown, 40, was killed when he ploughed into a turning-tractor after the cameras on his Tesla Model S sedan failed to distinguish the white side of the tractor’s trailer from the brightly lit sky, and neither the car nor Brown applied the brakes.

The Autopilot system uses cameras, radar and computers to detect objects and automatically brake if the car is about to hit something.

Bryan Thomas, spokesperson for the agency, highlighted two key conclusions from the investigation.

Advanced automated driving systems still require the “continual and full attention of a driver” who should be prepared to take action, the findings said.

But manufacturers must also design their technology “with the inattentive driver in mind,” looking at how drivers actually behave when using the technology, rather than just how they should behave, Thomas explained.

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US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on Thursday that both drivers and manufacturers must take more responsibility for the use of semi-autonomous vehicles, according to a Guardian report.

He said that drivers must take their obligation to maintain control of a vehicle seriously, and automakers must also explain the limits of semi-autonomous systems.

“The (auto) industry is going to have to be clear about what the technology does and what it is does not do, and communicate it clearly,” Foxx said.

Tesla had said in the past that drivers must acknowledge that Autopilot is an ‘assist feature’ that requires both hands on the wheel at all times, and they must be prepared to take over at any time.

Following the crash, the company updated its Autopilot software in September so that it disables the automatic steering function if drivers don’t keep both hands on the wheel, and now relies more on radar sensors and less on cameras.

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