Tesla Autopilot investigation closed after feds find 13 fatal crashes related to misuse

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed a long-running investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system after reviewing hundreds of crashes involving its misuse, including 13 that were fatal and “numerous others involving serious injuries.”

At the same time, NHTSA is opening a new investigation to assess whether the Autopilot recall fix Tesla implemented in December is effective enough.

NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigation said in documents released Friday that it had completed “extensive work” that found Tesla’s “weak driver engagement system was not appropriate for permissive operational capabilities of the autopilot.”

“This mismatch has resulted in a critical safety gap between drivers’ expectations regarding (Autopilot’s) operational capabilities and the system’s true capabilities,” the agency wrote. “This gap has led to predictable misuse and preventable accidents. »

The closure of the initial investigation, which began in 2021, marks the end of one of the government’s most visible efforts to examine Tesla’s Autopilot software. The Justice Department is also looking into the company’s claims about the technology, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles has accused Tesla of falsely advertising the capabilities of Autopilot and the more advanced Full Self-Driving beta software. Tesla, meanwhile, is now going “against the wall for autonomy,” according to CEO Elon Musk.

NHTSA said its investigation examined 953 crashes reported through Aug. 30, 2023. In about half (489) of them, the agency said either the data “was insufficient to make an assessment,” either the other vehicle was at fault, or the autopilot was found to be defective. was not used, or the crash was otherwise unrelated to the probe.

NHTSA said the remaining 467 crashes fell into three categories. There have been numerous (211) accidents in which “the Tesla’s frontal plane struck another vehicle or obstacle with sufficient time for an attentive driver to react to avoid or mitigate the accident.” It said 145 accidents involved “exiting off the road in low traction conditions such as wet roads”. And it said 111 of the crashes involved “road excursions where Autosteer was inadvertently deactivated by driver actions.”

Tesla tells drivers they should pay attention to the road and keep their hands on the wheel when using Autopilot, which it measures via a torque sensor and, in its newest cars, the camera built into the passenger compartment. But NHTSA and other safety groups have said those warnings and controls don’t go far enough. In December, NHTSA said these measures were “insufficient to prevent abuse.”

Tesla agreed to issue a recall via a software update that would theoretically increase driver monitoring. But this update doesn’t really seem to change Autopilot much — a sentiment NHTSA seems to agree with.

Parts of this recall fix require “owner compliance” and Tesla allows a driver to “easily override” some of the protections, according to NHTSA.

This story is developing…

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe.Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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