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Friday, 27 January 2017 19:10

NHTSA's Preliminary Evaluation of Tesla is Closed

On May 7, 2016, a 2015 Tesla Model S collided with a tractor trailer crossing an uncontrolled intersection on a highway west of Williston, Florida, resulting in fatal injuries to the Tesla driver.

Data obtained from the Model S indicated that: 1) the Tesla was being operated in Autopilot mode at the time of the collision; 2) the Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system did not provide any warning or automated braking for the collision event; and 3) the driver took no braking, steering or other actions to avoid the collision. On June 28, 2016, NHTSA opened PE16-007 to “examine the design and performance of any automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash.”


The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) analyzed the following subjects as part of NHTSA’s examination of the design and performance of Tesla’s Autopilot system: 1) Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system design and performance in the subject Tesla and peer vehicles; 2) human-machine interface issues related to Autopilot operating mode; 3) data from crash incidents related to Tesla’s Autopilot and AEB systems; and 4) changes Tesla has implemented in the Autopilot and AEB systems.


NHTSA’s examination did not identify any defects in the design or performance of the AEB or Autopilot systems of the subject vehicles nor any incidents in which the systems did not perform as designed. AEB systems used in the automotive industry through MY 2016 are rear-end collision avoidance technologies that are not designed to reliably perform in all crash modes, including crossing path collisions. The Autopilot system is an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) that requires the continual and full attention of the driver to monitor the traffic environment and be prepared to take action to avoid crashes. Tesla's design included a hands-on the steering wheel system for monitoring driver engagement. That system has been updated to further reinforce the need for driver engagement through a "strike out" strategy. Drivers that do not respond to visual cues in the driver monitoring system alerts may "strike out" and lose Autopilot function for the remainder of the drive cycle.


A safety-related defect trend has not been identified at this time and further examination of this issue does not appear to be warranted. Accordingly, this investigation is closed. The closing of this investigation does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that no safety-related defect exists. The agency will monitor the issue and reserves the right to take future action if warranted by the circumstances.

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