The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has closed their investigation into the crash of a Tesla Model S with the company’s Autopilot function active. The regulatory agency has concluded the car features no defects that warrant a recall.
Last May Tesla Model S owner Joshua Brown died when his Model S struck a semi truck in Florida. During the incident Brown had Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot feature engaged. NHTSA subsequently opened an investigation into Tesla surrounding the effectiveness of the Autopilot feature.
NHTSA discovered that the last action Brown took with the car was to set the cruise control system to 74 mph. That event occurred two minutes prior to the incident. Brown never attempted to apply the brakes prior to the incident, which the agency feels there was amply time for him to do so.
The report specifically states that Brown, “should have been able to take some action before the crash, like braking, steering or attempting to avoid the vehicle. He took none of those actions.”
Although NHTSA has found no defects in the software, the agency has acknowledged in their findings that drivers could be confused about whether the software or the driver is in control of the vehicle when Autopilot is engaged.
The investigation has been closely watched by automakers, as most are rolling out semi-autonomous features similar to Tesla’s Autopilot. The results of this investigation suggest the regulatory framework may be adapting to the autonomous driving future, at least slightly.