WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Thursday it was upgrading its probe into 830,000 Tesla vehicles with its Autopilot advanced driver assistance system, a necessary step before it can apply for a reminder.
The auto safety agency opened a preliminary assessment in August to assess the system’s performance in 765,000 vehicles after a series of crashes in which Tesla vehicles struck stationary emergency vehicles. NHTSA is upgrading its probe to technical analysis, which it must do before it can demand a recall if deemed necessary.
NHTSA said the upgrade aims “to expand existing crash analysis, evaluate additional data sets, perform vehicle assessments, and explore the extent to which Autopilot and related Tesla systems can exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks by compromising the effectiveness of driver supervision.”
Tesla, which has dissolved its press offices, did not respond to a request for comment.
NHTSA said it has reports of 16 crashes, including seven injuries and one death, involving Tesla vehicles on Autopilot that struck stopped first responder and road maintenance vehicles.
NHTSA said its analysis indicated that forward collision warnings activated in the majority of incidents just before impact and subsequent automatic emergency braking intervened in about half of crashes.
“On average, in these accidents, the autopilot interrupted control of the vehicle less than one second before the first impact,” the agency added.
NHTSA noted that “when video of the incident was available, the
the first responder’s approach to the scene would have been visible to the driver an average of 8 seconds before impact.”
The agency also reviewed 106 reported autopilot crashes and said that in about half “there were indications that the driver was not sufficiently responsive to the needs of the dynamic driving task”.
“A driver’s use or misuse of vehicle components, or operation of a vehicle in an unintentional manner does not
necessarily rule out a system fault,” the agency said.
Separately, NHTSA has opened 35 special investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles in which Autopilot or other advanced systems were suspected of being used, involving 14 reported fatalities since 2016, including a crash that killed three people. last month in California.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
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