There is no evidence of any defects in Tesla's electric vehicles according to U.S. regulators after investigating an incident where a man's Model S vehicle plowed into a semitrailer truck on a Florida highway in May, killing him.
Before his death, he had been using Tesla's Autopilot system, a feature wherein the vehicle takes charge, allowing for a true, autonomous driving experience. It's the first death to be associated with autonomous driving software.
U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Tesla Probe
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday said that it has decided not to command a Tesla vehicle recall after conducting a six-month investigation. When news of the crash first broke, the incident received considerable attention and raised questions about the safety and reliability of Tesla' autonomous driving software.
The NHTSA's probe uncovered key facts about the incident. Joshua Brown, 40, a former Navy SEAL from Ohio, did not apply the brakes, and his last action was to set the cruise control at 74 mph less than two minutes pre-collision. The agency said Brown didn't take actions such as braking, steering, or attempting to avoid the truck before the crash.
NHTSA's report states that there could be some confusion over who's actually in control of the vehicle at certain times. The agency also said that its no-recall decision was not influenced by improvements to the autonomous software Tesla announced in September.
Tesla detailed its plans to enhance Autopilot last year, implementing limitations to driverless rides alongside other features that Elon Musk, the company's CEO, said would have avoided the unfortunate incident.
The decision not to recall Tesla vehicles is seen as a boost to automakers planning to push out near-driverless cars on U.S. roads in the next few years.
Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation secretary, says that drivers must take their obligations seriously, and automakers must make clear the limitations of semi-autonomous driving systems.
"The (auto) industry is going to have to be clear about what the technology does and what it is does not do, and communicate it clearly," he said.
Tesla Autopilot Crash Rate Reduced
After an analysis of Tesla vehicle data, the NHTSA found out that the vehicle crash rate went down 40 percent thanks to the installation of Tesla's Autosteer feature.
The NHTSA's probe included several subpoenas and information requests to Tesla, asking to describe how it monitored the incident and the steps it took before introducing the technology, but almost all Tesla's responses were redacted by the NHTSA.
In a tweet, Musk regarded the report as "very positive," while citing the NHTSA's analysis that suggests Autopilot crash rate fell 40 percent post-Autosteer installation.
Musk said in October that all new Tesla vehicles will come with an $8,000 hardware package by default that'll essentially support autonomous driving. He also said that before this year ends, a Tesla vehicle will traverse a route stretching from Los Angeles to New York without human aid or intervention.
Other automakers have said that their autonomous driving capability will be fielded by around 2020, as reported by Reuters.
Most recently, Tesla released software update 220.127.116.11.22, which removed Autopilot limits implemented a while back. The update also comes with additional safety controls that reduces chances of fatal incidents.