The American government is investigating multiple crashes involving Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot
More than 830,000 vehicles are now part of the probe
This could be a step leading to a recall
Back in August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a probe into Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system following a number of crashes involving vehicles parked on the shoulder.
This initial probe aimed to evaluate the capabilities of the Autopilot system in 765,000 vehicles, but the agency has now announced it will proceed with an engineering analysis of the system in 830,000 vehicles.
This is a necessary step before the NHTSA can order a safety recall, which could be the result of this inquiry.
The probe was motivated by 12 collisions in particular that involved Tesla vehicles crashing into the back of emergency vehicles stopped on the shoulder of the highway on which the car was travelling under the control of Autopilot. Since then, the NHTSA reports that 6 similar accidents have been added to its list.
The problem apparently comes from the driver monitoring system, which doesn’t do enough to ensure drivers are attentive to the road ahead at all times while the system is active, rather than a problem with the capacities of the system itself.
This conclusion was formed by analyzing the data related to the crashes, which found that the forward-collision warning system was activated in most cases and the vehicle braked on its own in about half of the accidents.
The analysis also shows that these warnings only came 1 second before impact while the footage from the crashes where it is available shows that the parked vehicles were visible to the driver up to 8 seconds prior to impact.
This means that the person behind the wheel was not paying sufficient attention to the road, which is crucial in order to correct mistakes made by the Autopilot system, which is only a level 2 driver assistance system, despite what its name can suggest.
If a recall is ordered, it will most likely force Tesla to rethink its driver monitoring system in order to make sure that the system is only activated when drivers are closely monitoring the driving conditions. Currently, all one needs to do for the system to keep going indefinitely is to apply some weight to the steering wheel, a system that can easily be fooled.