Tesla Autopilot is being formally investigated by the US

After a series of Tesla car crashes with parked vehicles causing causalities. The US government has set up a formal inquiry against Tesla Autopilot system.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – On Monday August 16th, the US government ‘Auto Safety Regulators’ started an open formal investigation against the Tesla Autopilot. This happened after around 11 Tesla vehicles in the last 3 years crashed into many parked emergency vehicles. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Agency claimed that Tesla crashes reported to have injured more than 17 people while also killing one.

In all the 11 crashes, Tesla vehicles were on the Autopilot or the Cruise Control Mode. While the Tesla Autopilot and cruise control both work perfectly in traffic, they seem to be failing in front of parked emergency vehicles. This is because all the recorded Tesla crashes were with emergency vehicles that used flashlights, flares, illuminated arrows boards and cones. Tesla vehicles despite these hazard signs were not able to stop.

This NHTSA reported these stats on their website on Monday. With Tesla vehicles gaining increasing popularity amongst people. Auto safety regulators knew that this is a serious matter, which is why they have decided to investigate all 765,000 vehicles that Tesla has sold in the last 7 years.

The first death relating to the Tesla autopilot was recorder back in 2016, when the driver of a Tesla model S crashed into a trailer in Florida. The safety agency while investigating that case said that there is no defect in the autopilot system. However, now with increasing accidents the regulatory has once again decided to investigate it. Unlike other investigations, this one will be more detailed and will analyze the system in detail.

Tesla autopilot failing and crashing inside a parked fire vehicle, May 2018
Tesla Autopilot failing and crashing inside a parked fire vehicle, May 2018

Details of the investigation and expected changes in the system

The US auto safety regulators in this investigation are going to have a detailed look inside Tesla’s system. One critical matter that regulators might want the company to change is to ensure that drivers pay attention to the road and stay prepared to take control of their vehicle in case of any system failure. This is because the manual instructs drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, however the car continues to operate even if the driver occasionally taps the steering wheel.

Raj Rajkumar, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University regarding this said,“Driver monitoring has been a big deficiency in Autopilot, I think this investigation should have been initiated some time ago, but it’s better late than never”.

Following this investigation the regulators could possibly force Tesla to recall vehicles back and add changes to them. It is expected that regulators could also force Tesla to add more cameras and airbags into the vehicles.

The Tesla autopilot system

Autopilot system that Tesla brought is surely a state of the art technology. This has started to revolutionize the automotive industry. While also making Tesla top every other car manufacturer out there. The autopilot system is built on neural network which is designed to replicate a human driving a car. Which is why the autopilot uses cameras and ultrasonic sensors to see and sense the environment around the car.

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These camera’s and sensors around the car makes the autopilot system detect the surroundings better than the driver could. The observation from the surroundings are inputted into the autopilot system within milliseconds. Which then allows it to drive the car, making driving much safer and effortless.

A video showcasing the Tesla autopilot system

The General Motors super cruise system proving to be more safe than Tesla’s

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, while launching the autopilot system did not considered warnings from safety experts saying that the autopilot system can prove to be dangerous. This is because it can make drivers give less attention to the road thus increasing the chances of accidents. Musk at the time ignored all warnings saying that the only thing the autopilot would do is make driving safer.

Fast forward to a few accidents in 2019, Tesla started to accept that drivers not giving attention to the road can make the autopilot system less safe.

While Tesla’s system shows multiple occasions where drivers paid no attention to the road thus leading to accidents. General Motors super cruise system when talking about drivers attention is much better. This is because it detects the drivers eyes and warns the driver once his eyes get off the road.

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