No Recalls After Tesla Autopilot Probe

Tesla, an electric automaker founded in 2003, has come out on the winning side of a lengthy investigation regarding their semi-autonomous Autopilot feature.

On Thursday afternoon, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded a months-long probe of Tesla's Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and Autopilot systems without finding any defects in the systems (PDF).

NHTSA said its examination did not identify any defects in the design or performance of the automatic emergency braking or Autopilot systems.

The USDOT has officially ended its investigation into a fatal crash that involved a Tesla vehicle operating in Autopilot mode, finding no fault in Tesla. During the May 7 crash in Florida, which involved a Tesla colliding with a truck, NHTSA found that there were at least seven seconds where the driver was distracted and could have taken back control of the system.

The NHTSA's report should bolster Tesla and other auto maker's efforts to introduce autonomous driving features in their vehicles, especially since Autopilot actually reduces crashes, as the agency discovered.

The crash was the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated and had opened up two separate government investigations - a preliminary evaluation of Tesla's Autopilot system by the NHTSA and a homicide investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol.

No Recalls After Tesla Autopilot Probe
No Recalls After Tesla Autopilot Probe

Although that ability is exciting and helpful, Tesla and other automakers must still file recall notices with NHTSA whenever they plan wireless updates that involve a safety issue, Thomas said.

Bryan Thomas, the agency's chief spokesman, said automated driving systems still require a driver's full attention. "Tesla's design included a hands-on the steering wheel system for monitoring driver engagement". These systems mainly avoid rear end collisions and are not created to perform in all crash modes. The Model S was being operated in Autopilot mode at the time of the collision.

A driver demonstrates Autopilot features in a Tesla Model S in Palo Alto, California, in 2015.

In the NHTSA report, it is explained that driving systems such as Autopilot require the complete and undivided attention of the driver.

"We appreciate the thoroughness of NHTSA's report and its conclusion", Tesla said in an e-mailed statement. Musk said that the new safety feature could have helped Brown avoid the fatal crash. The agency found that - though it was "not as specific as it could be" - Tesla provided sufficient information about the limitations of the systems, which include only being able to drive on highways.

Speaking of vindication, the report filed by the agency also noted some of the Autopilot's aspects that practically sounded like admiration, The Motley Fool reports.

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  • Douglas Reid