Fred Lambert, Electrek.co, January 19, 2017
Update: NHTSA confirmed the news that the Autopilot was not at fault – Tesla’s crash rate was reduced by 40% after introduction of Autopilot based on data reviewed by NHTSA
Following the tragic death of 45-year-old Joshua Brown in a collision with a truck while using the Autopilot of his Tesla Model S in Florida back in May 2016, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a preliminary evaluation of Tesla’s Autopilot and requested a lot of information from the automaker.
Citing a source briefed on the matter, Reuters reports that NHTSA is closing investigation today without finding any defect or issuing a recall.
The report said:
“The auto safety agency did not find evidence of a defect that would have required a safety recall of the cars, the source said.”
As we reported last year in our piece ‘Understanding the fatal Tesla accident on Autopilot and the NHTSA probe‘, the Florida Highway Patrol described the accident:
When the truck made a left turn onto NE 140th Court in front of the car, the car’s roof struck the underside of the trailer as it passed under the trailer. The car continued to travel east on U.S. 27A until it left the roadway on the south shoulder and struck a fence. The car smashed through two fences and struck a power pole. The car rotated counter-clockwise while sliding to its final resting place about 100 feet south of the highway.
Here’s our birds-eye visualization of what happened based on the information released by the police:
At the time, Tesla added its own understanding of the events in a blog post:
“What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”
Autopilot is meant to be used with constant monitoring from the driver and therefore, drivers shouldn’t rely on it to prevent this type of accident, which is likely why the system is not found to be at fault by NHTSA.
Tesla has since introduced a new radar technology that CEO Elon Musk said he believes could potentially prevent this type of accident going forward.
But again, Tesla always highlights the fact that Autopilot is only meant to be used while the driver remains vigilant and ready to take control at any time.