Tesla crash involving Autopilot prompts federal investigation

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating an accident involving Tesla Model S that may have involved the automaker's semiautonomous Autopilot software, according to Reuters . The accident took place last week in Utah, and the photos of model S added headlines across the country, despite the driver walked away with only a broken ankle.

The driver, a 28-year-old woman who has not been identified, told police she was driving 60 mph at the time, that Autiopilot had been involved, and was looking at her phone with her hands off the wheel to the right before the blockade occurred. She behind ended a fire truck in a red light, according to the police. However, it is not yet clear if the NHTSA is investigating the accident specifically due to the autopilot, as the agency does not say in its statement why it is investigating the matter.

"The agency has launched its special crash investigation team to gather information about the accident in South Jordan, Utah ", said the NHTSA in a statement given to Reuters today . "NHTSA will take appropriate action based on its review."

A report from the South Jordan Police Department in Utah details how the driver did not follow the standard autopilot protocol, including removing his hands from the steering wheel more than a dozen times and looking at his phone before the crash. So, although there is no evidence that the autopilot has failed in any way here, the NHTSA could be investigating the case to make a more definitive determination on the matter before we can conclusively say that it was the driver's fault. The Tesla Model S only monitors drivers by measuring resistance on the steering wheel, and the vehicle will provide visual alerts if it detects hands off the steering wheel for a certain period of time.

Tesla declined to comment specifically on the NHTSA investigation. However, a spokesman for the company said: "When the autopilot is used, drivers are continually reminded of their responsibility to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times." Tesla has always been clear that the autopilot does not make the car impervious to all accidents. " Tesla did confirm that the autopilot was really busy when the driver in the back of Utah finished the fire truck.

Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, has been very critical of media coverage of the accident, saying that journalists are focusing unfairly on Tesla accidents for sensational reasons and questioning why the numerous standard deaths of roads that occur every day are not covered so vigorously. Musk did, however, admits in a follow-up tweet that Autopilot "definitely needs to be better and we work to improve it every day".

Musk has said in the past that autopilot reduces the chances of a driver getting into an accident and as a result saves lives, and Tesla has reiterated the point in public statements even after fatal accidents. (Three people died while using the function, but never because of that). There is no concrete data on the safety of the autopilot, so Tesla said earlier this month that it will begin publishing quarterly reports that will describe the performance of the autopilot as it progresses. his plan to launch a fully autonomous system for next year. Musk has also often criticized autopilot users who are in accidents.

"When there is a serious accident, almost always, in fact, perhaps always, is an experienced user, and the problem is more than complacency," said Musk on the call of the analyst in which he announced the quarterly reports of the autopilot . "They just get too used to that." That tends to be more of a problem. It is not a lack of understanding of what Autopilot can do. It is [drivers] thinking that they know more about Autopilot than they do. "

A report from The Wall Street Journal revealed on Monday that although the autopilot can make drivers safer and that accidents tend to happen only when the guidelines are not followed, Tesla rejected the most advanced driver monitoring features in their cars that could prevent the autopilot from being used recklessly Tesla executives, including Musk, rejected the features Advanced by saying that they can be difficult or too expensive, can annoy drivers or may not work as expected.It was said that these monitoring functions involved perhaps eye tracking with sensors and infrared cameras or alerts and more vigorous sensors to maintain driver's hands on the steering wheel. Musk said later on Twitter that tracking it was not used because it was not effective.