Tesla Model S Autopilot Under Investigation

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(Newswire.net — July 20, 2016) —Joshua Brown, 40, was killed in Florida on May 7th 2016 while driving a Tesla S self-driving car, when his vehicle crashed into a tractor-trailer in Florida, explained Tesla, the company who last October introduced the model with autopilot, and added that it is still in the testing phase. The autopilot feature was on at the time of the crash, but neither the automatic braking system nor Mr. Brown applied the brakes before the car hit the trailer.

In the meantime, two more car accidents involving the Tesla self-driving car took place.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has informed the company that it seems in all three cases the autopilot security system failed.

Autopilot allows the car to drive and manage itself, to change lanes, and control speed using a camera, ultrasonic sensors, and GPS navigation, but it is recommended that the person behind the wheel be continuously aware.

Critics, however, say that it is inevitable that the driver’s attention will not be diverted when autopilot is on.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter and said during interviews that the company does not plan to disable the autopilot function, which is currently installed in 70,000 cars on the road, and suggests that the drivers are not using it properly.

Another accident took place early July in Pennsylvania, when an older American, driving on autopilot, hit the guardrail on a highway, but neither he nor the passenger were injured.

Last weekend, a third accident had happened in Montana. It was also connected to the autopilot system which was on at the time. The company claims that this function is not being used according to the rules. They point out that the technology is still in testing phase and is supposed to only help, not substitute the driver.

The company recommended that hands should always be kept on the wheel. However, social media is full of videos showing drivers who do not respect this rule, regardless of the alarm that turns on while the driver’s hands are off the wheel.

Tesla spoke as to the reason for the latest accident in Montana. The driver was on a mountain road without a separate line, he turned on autopilot and drove for two minutes with his hands off the wheel. The driver did not even touch the wheel, because the system would have registered that.

This is contrary to the instructions that appear on the screen every time the driver turns on autopilot in the vehicle, said Tesla, and added that the driver had not reacted to the alarm and a little after that, hit a pole.

Autopilot is best used on roads with separate lines, and it is not for driving in high speeds on undivided roads, said Tesla.

According to CNN, the driver said he is not sure whether he was guilty or the car, but he is sure that he would buy the same model again. He said he did not get an alarm signalling danger, adding that warnings are in English, and he speaks Chinese.

The accident in Florida in early May, the first in which someone was killed in a self-driving car, is the subject of an investigation by the NHTSA, who investigate 25 to 30 road accidents annually.

In addition, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is leading an investigation as to why Tesla was only informing the public about the fatal accident in Florida 54 days since it happened, and in the meantime were still selling corporate actions. Tesla officials claim that at the time, they did not know that the accident occurred while the vehicle was on autopilot.