NHTSA has started and inquiry over Tesla, after a driver of a Model S cruising on Autopilot has been killed in an accident on May 7 in Williston, Florida.
Tesla’s Autopilot self-driving feature has been under a lot of scrutiny, with many owners have been already complaining of many failures. However, the recent case is unfortunately far more serious and it is the first known fatality to involve a Model S driving on Autopilot. In a blog post, Tesla said the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the 2015 Model S. Neither the system nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. A report by the Florida Highway Patrol showed Tesla’s windshield hit the bottom of the trailer as it passed underneath, and the car kept going, leaving the road, striking a fence, crossing a field, passing through another fence and finally hitting a utility pole and killing the 40-year-old driver, Joshua Brown.
Tesla pointed out the Autopilot “requires explicit acknowledgement that the system is new technology and still in a public beta phase before it can be enabled” and it is “an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times and you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle while using it.”
The NHTSA said the crash “calls for an examination of the design and performance of any driving aids in use at the time of the crash.” If the Autopilot is found unsafe and responsible for the accident, the agency will order a recall.