NHTSA Expands Tesla Investigation Following Autopilot Failure During Accidents

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Regulators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are expanding a probe into Tesla’s Autopilot software that was initiated last fall, news outlets reported. According to the safety officials, investigators are making an engineering analysis of the software that might lead to a recall. 

The issue at the heart of this probe is associated with how the system identifies stopped first responder vehicles and alerts drivers of the potential risks. 

If drivers are not alerted of potential risks promptly, they are more likely to crash.  

NHTSA Probe Covers Over 800,000 Tesla Vehicles

Vehicles under regulatory scrutiny include the Model S units built between 2014 and 2021, the Mode X units built between 2015 and 2021, the Model 3 units built between 2018 through 2021, and the Model Y units built between 2020 and 2021. 

The focus of the investigation expansion is the software’s warning capabilities regarding the vehicle’s interaction with first responder vehicles at the scene of an accident. Depending on what regulators find, the company might have to launch a recall to fix the software. 

The decision to expand the probe follows “an accumulation of crashes in which Tesla vehicles, operating with Autopilot engaged, struck stationary in-road or roadside first responder vehicles tending to pre-existing collision scenes,” the NHTSA said in its report. 

Regulators: Tesla Might Have To Improve Autopilot System To Help Drivers Prevent Accidents 

In at least 16 crashes involving Tesla vehicles whose Autopilot system was under use, regulators found that the system only stopped its control over the vehicle one second before colliding. In other words, drivers may have been able to prevent accidents if they had been alerted of the potential risk earlier.

According to the NHTSA, while drivers had their hands on the wheel prior to all of the 16 accidents, they failed to take evasive action until it was too late. Additionally, in 25% of the cases, Autopilot failed to issue any “visual or chime alerts at all during the final Autopilot use cycle,” regulators stated.

Officials are also adding 100 accidents to the list of cases under investigation that did not involve first responder vehicles but that involved drivers who failed to respond quickly to the risks in their immediate vicinity. 

To learn more about this expanded investigation follow this link.