Tesla’s “autopilot” is re-examined after accidents


The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is again tackling Tesla’s “Autopilot” driver assistance system. She refers to eleven incidents between January 2018 and July 2021 in which Tesla models ran into emergency vehicles parked on the roadside. According to the NHTSA, there were 17 injuries and one death.

Tesla itself points out to customers that the “autopilot” is only an assistance system and that the person in the driver’s seat must therefore keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times. He should also always be ready to take control.

Nevertheless, it seems to happen again and again that drivers rely completely on the “autopilot”. A few years ago, Tesla tightened its safety measures: the software detects when the driver is not hands on the wheel and emits warning tones after a short time.

The NHTSA had already examined the “autopilot” system after a fatal accident in 2016. Back then, a driver died after his Tesla crashed under the trailer of an articulated lorry that had crossed the street. The NHTSA concluded that the system was functioning correctly within its capabilities, but that the person behind the wheel relied too much on it. The “autopilot” system had not recognized the trailer with its white side front and had not initiated any braking. The driver hadn’t responded either.

The NHTSA pointed out that in all rear-end collisions, the fire and ambulance vehicles were clearly recognizable by the flashing lights switched on, among other things. The “autopilot” system was switched on in all affected Tesla vehicles.

Tesla’s precautions against misuse of the “autopilot” system have long been criticized. Among other things, it is required that Tesla use the camera in the interior to monitor the driver’s attention. Critics also find that the name “autopilot” is an exaggeration that invites negligent use. Tesla even calls the next stage of the program “Full Self-Driving”, although according to the criteria common in the industry it remains just an assistance system.


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