Tesla Autopilot survey shifted to ‘technical analysis’: NHTSA

After launching an investigation to assess the performance of Tesla’s Autopilot system in August 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration upgraded its probe to technical analysis.

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According to the regulator, the technical analysis will evaluate additional data sets, perform vehicle assessments and “explore the extent to which Autopilot and related Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks by compromising efficiency. driver supervision”.

A technical analysis is the final step in an investigation, and in most cases NHTSA decides within a year whether there should be a recall or if the investigation should be closed. The probe now covers around 830,000 vehicles, which includes all Y, S, X and 3 vehicle models sold since 2014.

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NHTSA’s preliminary investigation was prompted by “an accumulation of accidents in which Tesla vehicles, operating with Autopilot engaged, collided with stationary first aid vehicles on the road or at the side of the road tending to scenes of pre-existing collisions”, according to a document published on its website.

It also assessed crashes in similar circumstances of Teslas operating with Autopilot enabled, as well as the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist and enforce driver engagement during Autopilot operation.

The remains of a Tesla vehicle are seen after it crashed in The Woodlands, Texas on April 17, 2021. (Scott J. Engle via Reuters/Reuters)

The preliminary investigation looked at 16 incidents of collisions of Teslas with first-response and road maintenance vehicles, which resulted in a total of 15 injuries and one death.

Forward collision warning was activated immediately before impact in the majority of incidents and subsequent automatic emergency braking occurred in about half of the collisions. On average, the autopilot stopped controlling the vehicle less than a second before the first impact.

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Additionally, the agency reviewed 191 crashes not limited to first responder scenes, but removed 85 due to external factors, such as the actions of other vehicles, or a lack of information to support an assessment. final.

Of the remaining 106 accidents, about half are due to drivers not intervening when needed or intervening via “inefficient control inputs”. In 37 of the 106 collisions, the driver’s hands were on the steering wheel in the last second before the collision.

A quarter of the 106 accidents appeared to be related to the use of the autopilot in areas where it has limitations or in conditions that could interfere with its operation, such as roads other than limited-access highways, or environments low traction or visibility, such as rain, snow. or ice cream.

“A driver’s use or misuse of vehicle components, or unintentional operation of a vehicle, does not necessarily rule out a system fault,” NHTSA noted.

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Although Tesla released an over-the-air software update for Autopilot last fall to improve camera-based detection of emergency vehicle lights in low-light conditions, NHTSA questioned why the company didn’t had not issued a reminder to resolve the problem.

The National Safety Transportation Board, which also investigated some Tesla crashes dating back to 2016, recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit Autopilot use to areas where it can operate safely. He also recommended that NHTSA require Tesla to have a better system for ensuring drivers pay attention, though the agency has yet to act on the recommendations. The NTSB can only make recommendations to other federal agencies.

A spokesperson for Tesla, which has disbanded its public relations department, did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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