Tesla Model S’s fatal accident on Autopilot mode leads to a NHTSA preliminary investigation
After the closing bell Thursday, Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) shares tumbled after the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a preliminary investment on the automaker’s flagship sedan, the Model S. The decision was taken after a critical accident of the vehicle while its Autopilot mode was activated. Tesla stock closed the trading session up 0.99% at $212.98 on Thursday and during the extended trading hour, it slid as much as 3.20% to $205.45.
About 25,000 sedans with Autopilot systems will be investigated by NHTSA, which said that the accident happened in the 2015 production version of the vehicle with autonomous driving technology. Thus, the organization will examine the system’s performance and design. This is the initial step ahead of recalling the vehicles, if it thinks that they are unsafe.
Tesla responded to the news, claiming that this is “the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated.” Typically, there is a casualty after 94 million miles in the US and after 60 million miles worldwide, its vehicles are far safer than other vehicles on the road.
The automaker informed the agency regarding the crash right after it happened. The NHTSA just wants to check whether or not the autonomous driving system worked properly. The vehicle was driving on a dual carriageway with Autopilot activated when a tractor trailer moved across the highway, perpendicular to the sedan. Both the driver and the autonomous system did not notice the trailer’s white side against a bright lit sky, therefore, the vehicle’s brakes were not applied.
Notably, since the technology is new and still in beta phase, the Autopilot is disabled by default and it needs “explicit acknowledgement” before it can be activated. Additionally, owners are advised to keep their hands on the steering while using the autonomous system so that they can regain control of the vehicle.
Moreover, whenever the Autopilot is enabled, the vehicle tells the owner to keep his hands on the steering and be ready to intervene. Tesla cars also frequently checks whether the driver’s hands are on the steering or not and gives audible and visual alerts if it doesn’t detect hands. It decelerates until the hands are detected. Tesla is gradually improving the system through software updates and it plans to create fully autonomous electric vehicles within two years.