Tesla ‘autopilot’ investigation escalated ahead of possible recall

US federal regulators have deepened their investigation into Eaton Rusk’s Tesla and are looking at the company’s famed ‘autopilot’ function.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched its probe in August 2021 after identifying over a dozen crashes. The 16 collisions took place between January 2018 and January 2022 and resulted in 15 injuries and one death.

According to their documents, forensic details reviled most of the drivers had their hands on the steering wheel and were complying with the company’s system.

On Thursday, the agency said the preliminary examination will escalate to an “engineering analysis” to explore “the degree to which Autopilot and associated Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or behavioural safety risks by undermining the effectiveness of the driver’s supervision.”

NHTSA will review data from over 800,000 Tesla vehicles (Models Y, X, S and 3) and almost 200 new cases of collisions that involved Teslas with the autopilot feature.

An “engineering analysis” is the required step before a potential recall, according to the Washington Post. It is said to take around a year for the NHTSA to decide whether the probe should be closed or a recall is necessary.

The function uses artificial intelligence to help drivers navigate the road and detect other vehicles. While the company instructs drivers to pay attention and keep their hands on the wheel, some have taken advantage of Tesla’s autopilot. NHTSA said the mistreatment of autopilot didn’t determine whether the system was not defective.

It said: “This is particularly the case if the driver behaviour in question is foreseeable in light of the system’s design or operation.”

The agency discovered that the warning system activated most of the time and the automatic emergency braking system came into effect for half of the crashes. “On average, in these crashes, autopilot aborted vehicle control less than one second before the first impact,” they stated.

In another investigation, the agency looks into 758 cases of “phantom braking” after complaints of Tesla vehicles braking suddenly during high speeds.

Indy100 reached out to Tesla for comment.

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