US agency updates Tesla Autopilot safety probe, step before possible recall

WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Thursday it is updating its investigation into 830,000 Tesla vehicles (TSLA.O) with its advanced driver assistance system Autopilot, a step needed before it can seek a remember.

The automotive safety agency in August opened a preliminary assessment to assess the system’s performance on 765,000 vehicles after about a dozen accidents in which Tesla vehicles hit parked emergency vehicles — and said on Thursday it had identified six additional accidents.

NHTSA is updating its rig for an engineering review, which must be done before requiring a recall if deemed necessary.

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The automotive safety regulator is looking into whether Tesla vehicles adequately ensure drivers are paying attention. The agency added evidence suggesting that drivers in most of the crashes under review complied with Tesla’s warning strategy that seeks to attract driver attention, raising questions about its effectiveness.

In 2020, the National Transportation Safety Board criticized Tesla’s “ineffective monitoring of driver involvement” after a fatal autopilot accident in 2018 and said the NHTSA had provided “poor oversight.”

NHTSA said the update is “to extend existing crash analysis, assess additional datasets, conduct vehicle assessments, and explore the degree to which Autopilot and associated Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or safety risks.” behavior, undermining the effectiveness of driver supervision.”

Tesla, which withdrew its press releases, did not respond to a request for comment.

NHTSA said it has reports of 16 accidents, including seven incidents with injuries and one death, involving Tesla vehicles on autopilot that struck stationary first-aid and road maintenance vehicles.

Democratic Senator Ed Markey praised the NHTSA update. “Every day Tesla flouts safety rules and misleads the public about its ‘autopilot’ system, our roads become more dangerous,” he wrote on Twitter.

NHTSA said its analysis indicated that forward collision warnings were activated in most incidents shortly before impact and that subsequent automatic emergency braking intervened in approximately half of the crashes.

“On average, in these accidents, the autopilot aborted vehicle control less than one second before the first impact,” the agency added.

NHTSA noted that “where video of the incident was available, the rescuer’s approach to the scene would have been visible to the driver an average of 8 seconds before impact”.

The agency also analyzed 106 reported autopilot accidents and said that in approximately half “there were indications that the driver was not sufficiently responsive to the needs of the dynamic driving task.”

“The use or misuse of vehicle components by a driver, or operation of a vehicle in an unintentional manner does not necessarily exclude a system defect,” the agency said.

NHTSA also found that in about a quarter of the 106 crashes, the main crash factor appeared to be related to system operation where Tesla says limitations may exist in places such as roads other than limited-access highways, or in high-street environments. visibility involving factors such as rain. , snow or ice.

Tesla says Autopilot allows vehicles to automatically lock and steer within their lanes, but does not make them capable of self-driving.

An NHTSA spokesperson said advanced driving assistance features can promote safety “by helping drivers avoid collisions and mitigating the severity of accidents that do occur, but as with all technology and equipment in motor vehicles, drivers must use them correctly and responsibly.”

Last week, NHTSA said it asked Tesla to answer questions by June 20, after receiving 758 reports of unexpected brake activation linked to autopilot in its separate investigation of 416,000 newer vehicles.

Separately, the NHTSA has opened 35 special accident investigations into incidents involving Tesla vehicles in which autopilot or other advanced systems were suspected of use involving 14 reported fatalities since 2016, including an accident that killed three last month in California.

NHTSA asked a dozen other automakers, including General Motors (GM.N), Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), to answer questions about “driver engagement and attention strategies” using systems. assistance” during its investigation of Tesla, but did not release its responses.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Bernadette Baum and Chizu Nomiyama

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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