On May 7 last year, a Tesla Model S with the semi- autonomous autopilot system activated, was involved in a fatal crash. With federal investigations going on in full swing since over 7 months, the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released its full findings on the matter.
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.
Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million times whereas, worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million times. So, NHTSA is working on the case so as to determine whether the system actually worked as per expectations or not.
In the reports, NHTSA notes that crash rates related to Tesla Cars have dropped by nearly 40 percent since Autopilot was introduced. The report also says that the safety administration did not find any defects in the design or implementation of Tesla’s automatic emergency braking systems (AEB) or its Autopilot features. NHTSA has also calculated the potential for the driver to have misused the Autopilot.
Elon Musk took the opportunity to comment on the findings when he tweeted:
The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.
But it is also important to note that Tesla disables Autopilot by default and the system being a new technology, is still in a public beta phase before it can be enabled. So, when the driver activates it, the acknowledgement box gives him/ her full instructions and warnings on how to control the car.
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. With such complex and advanced functionality, there are surely less chances for the Autopilot system to be responsible for the crash.
Well, the investigation concludes that Tesla could be more careful about its system limitations in its driver-assist features but also acknowledges the Autopilot’s functioning in making the drivers and vehicle owners aware of all the information. So basically, Tesla has received clearance from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.