NHTSA Investigating Tesla Model S Following Fatal ‘Autopilot’ Crash

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A current fatal crash of a 2015 Tesla Model S operating in “Autopilot” mode prompted the National Highway Site visitors Safety Administration to open a preliminary investigation into the model, Reuters is reporting.

Because the crash occurred when the vehicle was beneath the control of an autonomous driving system, the NHTSA mentioned it is planning “an examination of the style and overall performance of any driving aids in use at the time of the crash.”

A preliminary investigation is the first step the agency can take if it believes a vehicle is unsafe and might require to be recalled. The probe involves a total of 25,000 Tesla Model S autos.

Tesla responded to the news on its web site with a post titled “A Tragic Loss”:

This is the very first recognized fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all cars in the US, there is a fatality every single 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality roughly every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is just a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the technique worked according to expectations.

Following our regular practice, Tesla informed NHTSA about the incident immediately right after it occurred. 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 higher ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the really uncommon circumstances of the effect triggered the Model S to pass beneath the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S. Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its sophisticated crash safety method would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in quite a few other equivalent incidents.

Tesla went on to clarify that drivers are presented with a message explaining how to use Autopilot safety when they engage the function:

When drivers activate Autopilot, the acknowledgment box explains, amongst other things, that Autopilot “is an assist feature that demands you to maintain your hands on the steering wheel at all times,” and that “you need to preserve manage and responsibility for your vehicle” whilst utilizing it.

CNN is reporting that the crash happened Might 7 in Williston, Florida. Tesla’s stock sank in soon after-hours trading when news of the investigation broke.

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