NHTSA expands Tesla Autopilot investigation

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In August and September, NHTSA sent letters to Tesla and 12 other automakers requesting crash data and information about their active driver assistance systems.

The safety agency found there had been 16 crashes involving a hitting Tesla first responder and highway maintenance vehicles. Many of these incidents had some form of intervention from the forward collision warning and/or automatic emergency braking systems, but on average the autopilot interrupted control of the vehicle less than one second before the impact. Of those crashes, NHTSA found that driver attention warnings were only issued in two cases.

Additionally, NHTSA reviewed 191 other crashes involving the autopilot.

Experts, including those from the National Transportation Safety Board, have warned that as systems like Autopilot get better at automating certain braking, accelerating and steering tasks, drivers may start to rely on them too much, even though they are designed to work there. is an attentive driver behind the wheel. A driver using Autopilot, for example, may stop paying attention to the driving task, even to the point of not noticing a stopped emergency vehicle with its lights flashing.

Federal lawmakers, safety advocates and other automakers have long called for better safeguards against driver inattention in vehicles that automate certain driving tasks.

“NHTSA is right to step up its safety investigation into Tesla’s driver assistance systems,” said William Wallace, associate director of safety policy at Consumer Reports. “If any part of a car’s design is foreseeable to increase the risk of a crash, then the manufacturer must repair the car immediately. The company can rework how a feature works, or add safeguards like an effective driver monitoring system, or do a combination of the two, but it needs to take action. And if the company doesn’t resolve the issue voluntarily, NHTSA should force it to do so.

Read: “Tesla’s camera-based driver monitoring fails to keep driver’s attention on the road, CR tests show.”

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