Software Integrity Blog


NHTSA investigates Tesla after first autopilot death

In May, a Tesla Model S driver using autopilot was killed when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the vehicle.

The accident on May 7 in Williston, Florida, was the first known death as the result of using autopilot for automobile technology.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) said the death “calls for an examination of the design and performance of any driving aids in use at the time of the crash.”

Tesla said that “neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.” The company also went on to say “the high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”

Tesla, in a company blog, reminded drivers that “it is important to note that Tesla disables Autopilot by default and requires explicit acknowledgement that the system is new technology and still in a public beta phase before it can be enabled. When drivers activate Autopilot, the acknowledgment box explains, among other things, that Autopilot ‘is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times,’ and that ‘you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle’ while using it. Additionally, every time that Autopilot is engaged, the car reminds the driver to ‘Always keep your hands on the wheel. Be prepared to take over at any time.’ The system also makes frequent checks to ensure that the driver’s hands remain on the wheel and provides visual and audible alerts if hands-on is not detected. It then gradually slows down the car until hands-on is detected again.”


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