Another Tesla Autopilot Crash Sends Safety Regulators Seeking Further Details

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have asked Tesla Motors, Inc. for a broad range of documents and questions regarding the new Autopilot feature in use when a 2015 Model S collided with a tractor truck resulting in a fatal accident in Florida on May 7th.

The driver was allegedly watching a movie while driving on Autopilot when the detectors failed to sense a white tractor trailer changing lanes with the blazing sun behind it. Tesla has denied responsibility saying that the crash was at fault of the truck driver, who was “…crossing both lanes of a divided highway in front of an oncoming car.”

The highway safety agency wants data logs of all crashes that could be linked to Autopilot.

In a recent letter to the company NHTSA released, the agency told Tesla’s director of field performance engineering it was examining the automatic emergency braking system and “any other” forward crash avoidance systems in use at the time of the fatal crash.

Tesla’s Autopilot features are already available in 70,000 cars and they allege that the crash in Florida was the first known fatality in more than 130 million miles of Autopilot driving. That is in comparison to a death in every 94 million miles of standard driving.

Two other crashes have been reported since the Florida fatality. Another crash, this time non-fatally, occurred resulting in the driver accusing Tesla’s Autopilot feature causing him to crash into a guardrail in Montana last Sunday. It was claimed that the Autopilot feature was on in the car when officers appeared at the scene.

The company said its Autopilot feature “is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert.”

The Autopilot feature is supposed to maintain the speed of surrounding traffic within well-marked lanes. The driver is warned upon switching to Autopilot to maintain aware of surroundings and to keep both hands on the wheel.

Nonetheless, the family of the man who lost his life in the crash in Florida has hired a personal injury/product liability lawyer based in Cleveland to investigate even further the reasons for the fatal incident.

Daytime view of an open two-lane road with trees on either side

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