There are no safety related issues with Tesla’s Autopilot system, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after months of investigation. The safety regulator began checking the electric vehicle maker’s semi-autonomous driving technology after a fatal accident in a Model S in May 2016. “NHTSA’s examination did not identify any defects in design or performance of the AEB [Automatic Emergency Braking] or Autopilot systems of the subject vehicles nor any incidents in which the systems did not perform as designed,” the agency wrote in its report.
“At Tesla, the safety of our customers comes first, and we appreciate the thoroughness of NHTSA’s report and its conclusion,” the automaker briefly responded about the agency’s investigation.
NHTSA conducted an extensive examination of Tesla’s autonomous systems. Testing showed that the automatic emergency braking system worked as intended. The Office of Defects Investigation also looked crash data for Tesla’s 2014-2016 vehicles and compared safety figures before and after the introduction of Autosteer. “The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation,” the report said.
The fatal accident occurred on May 7, 2016, in Florida when a semi truck turned left at an intersection in front of Joshua Brown’s Model S. The vehicle’s data indicated that the sedan was in Autopilot mode at the time, the automatic emergency braking system didn’t activate, and there was no steering or braking to avoid the collision. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board indicated the sedan was going 74 mph (119 kph) in a 65-mph (105 kph) zone at the time of the accident.
The incident created a firestorm of controversy about whether Autopilot was safe and more generally about whether semi-autonomous technology was truly ready for the road. Some governments threatened to ban the term Autopilot from the company’s marketing because it allegedly gave people a false sense of security. In September, Tesla seemed to respond with the 8.0 version of its firmware that included additional warnings for keeping drivers alert while using the semi-autonomous system.
You can read NHTSA's full report here as a PDF.
Source: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Tesla