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NHTSA Investigation Shows Tesla Autopilot Reduced Crashes 40 Percent Since Introduction


Posted on Feb 16, 2017

After Joshua Brown died in an accident while using the Tesla Autopilot function, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an investigation into the safety of the function.

What did the report find?

The NHTSA recently released the results of the investigation by the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). The NHTSA report laid to rest the fear that Tesla’s Autopilot feature was dangerous. The report found no defects in Tesla’s automatic emergency braking system (AEB) or Autopilot cruise feature. The report focused on the design and implementation of both systems. The NHTSA specifically found no fault of the Autopilot system in the Brown crash.

The report praised the Tesla innovations for design features that improve safety. In fact, the report showed a nearly 40 percent reduction in crashes of Tesla cars since the manufacturer began incorporating the Autopilot feature into its vehicles.  

The report did suggest Tesla be more detailed in describing the limitations inherent in the driver-assist features, even though the report admits Tesla has made all that information available to people who own or drive Tesla vehicles.

If the Autopilot feature is safe, why did the accident happen?

The accident occurred when Tesla’s Autopilot feature mistook the side of a truck as a brightly-lit sky. For this reason, the NHTSA investigated whether, “The Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) or Autopilot systems may not function as designed, increasing the risk of a crash.” However, the NHTSA collected information from the car, revealing the following initial facts:

  • Brown was operating the car in Autopilot mode at the time of the crash.
  • Even though the Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system did not warn the driver and did not engage the automatic brakes, the function was not defective.
  • The driver took no action to avoid the accident, including steering or braking.
  • Less than two minutes before the crash, the driver increased the speed setting of the cruise control to 74 miles per hour.
  • The driver took no further driving action after increasing the speed on the cruise control.

The findings prompted the NHTSA to issue a warning to drivers. The NHTSA concluded that drivers have an obligation to pay attention to their surroundings and be prepared to take immediate action to avoid accidents. The NHTSA also urges all drivers and owners to read their owner’s manuals to educate themselves on the limitations of these features.

Tesla warns consumers that its Autopilot feature cannot recognize all threats and that its automatic braking system cannot always provide warnings or engage automatic braking in time to prevent crashes. For this reason, drivers must always keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times.

If you have been injured in a crash, get car accident lawyer Jason R. Schultz on your side. He will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Call the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. today at 404-474-0804 for your free consultation.

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