The US Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) has expanded an investigation it opened last summer into Tesla’s driver assistance system being responsible for a series of crashes with emergency vehicles, according to released documents. Thursday, June 9. The investigation has moved from the preliminary evaluation stage to that of engineering analysis, the last stage before a possible recall, details a notice on the agency’s website.
The NHTSA will thus evaluate additional data and make its own evaluations of the vehicle. Above all, it will “explore the extent to which Autopilot or other Tesla driver assistance systems can exacerbate human or behavioral risks by compromising the effectiveness of driver supervision”. Autopilot is supposed to help the driver follow the trajectory of the road and keep the right distance from other vehicles, but Tesla makes it clear that the driver must remain vigilant at all times.
The investigation also covers more vehicles (830,000 Model S, X, 3 and Y model year 2014-2022 instead of 765,000) and more accidents with first aid vehicles involved (16 instead of 11). The NHTSA had opened its investigation in August 2021 to assess the performance of Autopilot after the accumulation of collisions between Teslas and first aid vehicles at accident scenes. The warning system activated just before impact in the majority of the 16 collisions studied, and the emergency braking system in about half of the cases, the agency concluded. When videos were available, it was determined that the crash scene was visible to the driver an average of eight seconds before impact.
In eleven cases where data was available, it also appeared that no driver attempted to avoid the collision in the two to five seconds before the crash even though all had their hands on the steering wheel. NHTSA eventually expanded its preliminary investigation to 191 crashes, 85 of which were attributed to outside factors. For half of the 106 remaining accidents, “there are indications that the driver was not sufficiently responsive” to the situation, notes the agency.
Use that does not comply with the recommendations “does not necessarily exclude a fault in the system”, also notes the NHTSA. “This is particularly the case if the behavior of the driver” results from the very design of the system”, is it added. Tesla, which dismantled its press service, did not respond to a request from AFP.
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