Tesla avoids recall after Autopilot crash death

After a six-month-long investigation conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) following last year's crash that killed a driver whose Model S collided with a truck while using the company's driving-assist feature, NHTSA regulators have issued a report stating that no evidence of defects in Tesla's electric vehicle were found.

The representative, who asked not to be named since the outcome had not yet been officially announced, suggested that the NHTSA did not find evidence of any defect that would necessitate a recall or any further investigation. Accordingly, this investigation is closed. With Autopilot considered one of the key selling attributes for Tesla products like the Model S and upcoming Model 3, getting the all-clear from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was a significant development for the automaker.

Every few months, Tesla will roll out new automated features to the Hardware 2-equipped vehicles as they are validated.

The crash happened May 7, 2016 in Williston, Florida in which the driver of the Tesla Model S suffered fatal injuries after colliding with a tractor-trailer while "crossing an uncontrolled intersection", federal documents read.

Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, called the report "very positive".

The full report is embedded below, but some sections of note include a section where NHTSA notes that crash rates involving Tesla cars have dropped by nearly 40 percent since the wide introduction of Autopilot.

Soon after the May 2016 crash, an internal investigation by Tesla concluded that the cameras on the Tesla did not register a truck that was turning left into the Tesla's lane due to glare from the sun.

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"Many of the crashes appear to involve driver behavior factors, including traveling too fast for conditions, mode confusion, and distraction", the investigators wrote.

The investigation was launched after Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old ex-Navy SEAL, slammed into the side of a tractor trailer at over 70mph while using the car's autopilot system.

Tesla said in a brief statement that it appreciated the thoroughness of the NHTSA investigation. Drivers need education on safe usage of Autopilot system and what to do and what not do when the auto is on Autopilot mode.

Consumer Reports magazine had foreshadowed this criticism, calling on Tesla to drop the "Autopilot" name.

In the NHTSA report, it is explained that driving systems such as Autopilot require the complete and undivided attention of the driver.

When Tesla released Autopilot in the fall of 2015, some safety advocates questioned whether the company and NHTSA allowed the public access to the system before testing was finished.

  • Desiree Holland