NHTSA Closes Tesla Autopilot Investigation

Palo Alto, Calif. – Jan. 25, 2017 – Following the death of a Tesla Model S driver who collided with a truck in Florida last May while using the car’s autopilot feature, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into Tesla’s autopilot program to evaluate its safety. Now, in a recent announcement, the NHTSA has said that it will close the probe and not demand a recall.

Reuters reported that the driver of the Tesla had set his cruise control at 74 miles per hour two minutes before the fatal crash, and did not apply the brakes during the accident. Further investigation of the incident indicated that the Tesla had indeed been in autopilot mode at the time, but the system did not indicate that a crash was imminent. This was the first known death that occurred during the operation of a self-driving vehicle system.

In its report, the NHTSA concluded that it “did not identify any defects” with the autopilot system, which Tesla has always maintained is still in its experimental phase. The agency added that the system was not designed to react to every possible collision scenario.

In the months following the incident, Tesla introduced a number of safety updates to the Model S, according to Autoblog. For instance, it created a lockout feature that disables autopilot if drivers don’t keep their hands on the wheel for a period of time. The purpose is to encourage drivers to remain alert, even when they are letting their cars do most of the driving.

The NHTSA report added that Tesla’s vehicle crash rate dropped by 40 percent after these updates were installed.

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