Technology

U.S. Investigators Say No Defect in Tesla Autopilot System

USA safety regulators will end an investigation into a fatal crash involving electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors' Autopilot system without seeking a recall, a person briefed on the matter said Thursday. About seven months later, NHTSA says it is closing the investigation after concluding that it did not identify any defects. "Accordingly, this investigation is closed", the agency said. "The agency will monitor the issue and reserves the right to take future action if warranted by the circumstances".

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. That's because all Tesla vehicles come equipped with the hardware necessary for Autopilot, but for the software to operate, you need a software upgrade that costs thousands of dollars.

"AEB systems used in the automotive industry through MY 2016 are rear-end collision avoidance technologies that are not created to reliably perform in all crash modes, including crossing path collisions", the report states.

The feature is meant to be used on the motorway, where is lets cars automatically change lanes and react to traffic.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk praised the NHTSA report for being "very positive" in a Twitter message.

In a statement, Tesla said activating its autopilot function requires clear driver acknowledgement that the system is new technology and still in a public beta phase.

The investigation was launched after Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old ex-Navy SEAL, slammed into the side of a tractor trailer at over 70mph while using the car's autopilot system. The automotive safety arm of the U.S. Transportation Department also looked into dozens of other reported Autopilot incidents, though only the Florida and Pennsylvania accidents involved serious harm to drivers.

The bulk of the NHTSA's investigation analyzed Autopilot's automatic emergency braking system (AEB), looking for flaws in it that might have led to Brown's death. According to what we learnt from the briefing is that most vehicle makers need to offer education to the consumers on the best ways to use the autopilot mechanisms. Since Teslas are linked wirelessly to company computers, the cars' software can now rely on the experiences of drivers to teach the safety technology which hazards are real, Musk said, sharply increasing safety overall.

The system also makes frequent checks to ensure that the driver's hands remain on the wheel and constantly provides visual and audible alerts if hands-on is not detected. In reviewing how Tesla warns it drivers about the need for attention to the road, the NHTSA took into account a software update the company pushed in September 2016 that adjusted how quickly the auto would warn the driver if their hands were not on the wheel.



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