US regulators have closed a probe of a fatal crash involving a Tesla Motors Inc. car driving itself, concluding the Silicon Valley auto maker’s semi-automated technology didn’t contain a safety defect, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday said that after a six-month investigation it found no “defects in the design or performance” of autopilot, the semiautonomous driving system that allows Tesla’s electric cars to power themselves in certain conditions.
The conclusion removed some scrutiny swirling around Tesla’s aggressive approach to rolling out automated driving technologies, giving the auto maker a reprieve.
But US highway safety regulators said they would continue to monitor self-driving technologies and raised concerns about aggressive marketing and motorists becoming imbued with a false sense of security when using such systems.
US highway safety regulators began probing autopilot after Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old former Navy SEAL, was killed when his Model S electric car using the technology collided with an 18-wheel tractor trailer on a Florida highway in May. Tesla said autopilot failed to detect the truck’s white trailer against a brightly-lit sky.
But regulators found the system’s automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warning features performed as designed, and suggested Brown could have anticipated the crash with at least seven seconds to react.
“There was enough lead time to take some action,” said Bryan Thomas, a NHTSA spokesman, adding it remains unclear whether Brown could have mitigated or avoided the crash. The agency’s probe found Brown didn’t maneuver in the seconds before the collision.
“The Brown family plans to review the NHTSA findings and conclusions along with all other information assembled by the other agencies that have investigated the tragic loss of their son,” said Jack Landskroner, a lawyer for Brown’s relatives.
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