Tesla under NHTSA investigation over fatal Autopilot crash


The electric car company stated that the fatal crash, which the recently launched Autopilot feature was active, is currently under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA for short. An investigation is generally the first step in determining if a recall will need to be issued.

According to a post on their company’s blog, Tesla laid out the details of the crash. They stated that the Autopilot (nor the driver) noticed the semi/trailer “against a brightly lit sky”, thus the brakes were not activated. Moreover, the vehicle’s radar wasn’t a factor because “tunes out what looks like an overhead road sign to avoid false braking events”, per a tweet from Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO.

Moreover, because of the initial impact (between the windshield and the trailer), the safety systems weren’t optimized to prevent the death of 40-year old Joshua Brown from Ohio. The accident occurred in Williston, Florida.

It was noted that not only was this the first fatality with a Tesla utilizing the Autopilot feature, but that the fatality rate (after 130 million miles) was lower than the national (1 every 94 million miles) or the world (1 every 60 million miles) averages.

Ultimately, Tesla states that the driver is responsible for maintaining control of the vehicle while in motion. They also stated that all drivers have to agree that the feature is in a “public beta phase”. Since this is new territory for regulators, there are no rules in place, as of this writing.

Tesla releasing the autonomous function has come under fire from others in the industry for giving the drivers the impression that it can do more than its intended purpose. Competitors Volvo and GM are currently testing similar features, and both stated that they will release them when they are fully ready.

Photo Credit: Tesla Motors

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