NHTSA Closes Tesla Autopilot Death Investigation, No Recall Necessary, Autosteer Reduces Crash Rate By 40%

5 months ago by Steven Loveday 48

Scene Of May 7th Tesla Autopilot Model S Fatality (via ABC News/Bobby Vankavelaar)

Scene Of May 7th Tesla Autopilot Model S Fatality (via ABC News/Bobby Vankavelaar)

Joshua Brown, victim of the fatal crash, was a huge fan of the Tesla Autopilot technology

Joshua Brown, victim of the fatal crash, was a huge fan of the Tesla Autopilot technology

Unfortunately, May 7, 2016 was a very sad day. Joshua Brown passed away after his Tesla Model S ran into the back of a tractor trailer with Tesla Autopilot engaged. Tesla employees can rest easy now knowing that after a thorough investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is not blaming the company for the terrible occurrence.

It was the first reported death that was said to be linked to Tesla Autopilot software. The crash sparked an investigation by the NHTSA. Tesla was forthcoming with requested information related to the crash, however the automaker needed some extra time to compile everything that the NHTSA requested.

The NHTSA investigation is now complete and the case has been closed. The agency has released its final report regarding the fatal incident. Fortunately for Tesla, the NHTSA did not find any inadequacies with the Autopilot technology and will not issue a recall. This is not to say that the Autopilot had no bearing on the accident, however the agency believes that it did what it was supposed to do. The software was said to have worked within its limitations. Following the announcement, Tesla released a statement:

“At Tesla, the safety of our customers comes first, and we appreciate the thoroughness of NHTSA’s report and its conclusion.”

Added to this, Tesla CEO Elon Musk Tweeted:

Despite some critics of Tesla Autopilot, more and more proof is being exposed that it is saving lives. The NHTSA report goes so far as to praise the technology’s design and intention. The report also draws attention to the positive impact of the technology. However, the NHTSA did point out that Tesla should continue to be diligent in making sure that drivers understand the technology’s limitations. The NHTSA concluded that, at this point, Tesla has made all information available and clear.

Click the link below to read the NHTSA’s full report.

Source: NHTSA

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48 responses to "NHTSA Closes Tesla Autopilot Death Investigation, No Recall Necessary, Autosteer Reduces Crash Rate By 40%"

  1. Get Real says:

    Oh snap, what will the serial anti-Tesla FUDSTERS like 4E, Sven, zzzzzzzzzz, etc. complain about now?

    1. William says:

      We shall soon find out!!! Just hold your horses a while longer, they have to find an angle to run with first.

    2. ffbj says:

      Probably past their bedtimes.

      1. CLIVE says:

        Or taken out to pasture

  2. speculawyer says:

    Wow, not many recall investigations end up as good PR for the company!

  3. ffbj says:

    The dominoes seem to be lining up for Tesla on many fronts.
    1. More financing and joint ventures with Panasonic.
    2. Positive views from MS and other analysts that Tesla Model 3 will soft launch in Q4.
    3. Positive comments of a coming Trump/Musk alliance or at least allegiance.
    4. An overarching undercurrent that Tesla has weathered the storm and is moving into future ev world as the Drum Major leading the ev parade.

  4. Nix says:

    40% improvement was with the original version of autopilot/collision avoidance software. Now they are on the second generation of that software, and they have switched hardware. That will likely reduce accidents even more.

    Is 50% possible? More than 50%?

    This is huge.

    1. ffbj says:

      Their aim is 95% orders of magnitude above where we are now, which is orders of magnitude higher than normal accident rates.

      One would extrapolate that accidents being less frequent ones that do occur are less damaging to vehicles and occupants. Mainly occupants, which is where most the insurance money goes.
      So great news for Tesla specifically and good news generally for the development and dispersing of other vehicles with autonomous features.

      1. ffbj says:

        I meant lower numbers of accidents. Now it’s past my bedtime.

        1. Nix says:

          *laugh* I didn’t even notice until you pointed it out.

          Wow, 95% would be absolutely amazing. That would make it the single most effective safety device in the history of automobile safety. Not even seatbelts or airbags hit 95%.

          The reduction in insurance rates, and the reduction in deaths and injuries, and the reduction in lost wages and medical costs would be huge.

          1. William says:

            Good point for actuaries to consider, when market penetration of self driving cars, start to lower rates and create competition for insuring this low liability market segment!

          2. ffbj says:

            So very true. Perhaps it’s pie in the sky, but I love pie.

      2. Me Martin Winlow says:

        Great! So when can we expect our (Tesla owners) insurance premiums to go drop by 40% as well, I wonder?

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Nix said:

      “That will likely reduce accidents even more.

      “Is 50% possible? More than 50%?”

      I think the limits are going to be in the physics more than the software. When you have thousands of pounds of mass moving at high speed, then accidents are going to happen. Even if computer programs can react instantly, cars still have to depend on four tires, each with a “footprint” only about as big as your hand, to slow or stop, or change course.

      Or, to put it more succinctly: Self-driving cars are still subject to inertia.

      I would hope that at least 90% reduction in traffic accidents is possible in driving conditions involving only self-driving cars; a full order of magnitude. But the existence of human-driven cars on roads may well prevent the accident rate from dropping that far until nearly all cars on the road are fully autonomous. That’s going to take at least a human generation to happen.

      1. Nix says:

        Yes, reading the report they point out that cross-traffic collisions are the most difficult for these systems to avoid. Because by the time the system sees the collision is going to happen, the physics of stopping a car before hitting a car on a cross street is beyond what modern brakes can do.

        The need a rocket system that will launch the car over the cross traffic, and then safely return the car to earth in a controlled landing. Like a rocket returning from space and landing safely on a platform….

        *grin*

        1. William says:

          Please call St. Elon, on the Red Courtesy Phone, and proceed to the Space X Lounge at Gate 3! An Agent will be with you shortly. Thank you again for your input.

      2. heisenberghtbacktotheroots says:

        “That’s going to take at least a human generation to happen.”

        Pushy, you know that I am mostly positive, and therefor I place my bets against you.

        A 90% reduction in accidents will take exactly 16.66 years.

        (This number is acurately calculated! In 6.66 years we will have fully autonomous cars from all mayor car makers. It will be standard. Give it 10 more years to replace the majority of the fleet and BANG! 16.66 years.)

        I don’t know if by then both of us will still be around here (insideevs) to claim that our predictions were right and most likely by that time I will have forgotten what I said…

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          I will hope very much that you prove to be correct… or even that you’re being pessimistic! 🙂

  5. Mark V says:

    2.0 prob 60%

  6. acevolt says:

    Maybe insurance companies will lower our premiums if we have Autopilot enabled!

  7. James says:

    This is good news, but the negative effect of self-driving cars is that they will clog highways even more, as people opt to live further and further away from their jobs, or are forced to by higher prices in the city centers.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      No, self-driving cars will cooperate to ensure smooth traffic flow, instead of competing in a self-defeating fashion as human drivers do when traffic is heavy.

      One big advantage of self-driving cars is that they’ll be able to communicate wirelessly, and arrange themselves into a queue according to pre-programmed instructions. This will help a great deal in eliminating traffic jams.

      And “connectivity” in self-driving cars will also make them safer:

      https://www.technologyreview.com/s/534981/car-to-car-communication/

      1. needa says:

        I have noticed that you use a lot of assumptions for fact in your posts. That article clearly says they will ‘be able’, not that they ‘will’.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Or maybe you don’t realize that it’s up to the reader to discern between a factual statement, a fact-based opinion, mere speculation, or — as in this case — a prediction. When I make a statement about something that I believe will happen in the future, I don’t generally think it’s necessary to point out that’s not fact.

          I exercise critical thinking in my reading, and readers of my comments should do the same.

          1. needa says:

            Funny. As you could easily make those same arguments to the OP. No reason to make excuses for yourself. You clearly told the guy he was wrong, and then used a source to back it up. Next time start with ‘Maybe’… and go from there.
            Enjoy your day.

      2. Nix says:

        They can even inform each other of where empty parking spaces are, and when they are going to be leaving a parking space. And since they don’t care how far they park from the store entrance, they can cooperate to fill in the furthest spaces first.

        Cooperative cars can achieve scales of efficiency that can never be achieved by individual cars being operated based only on the information they have in their cameras/sensors at the moment.

  8. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Wonderful news!

    I was guessing, from various reports, that use of Autopilot/AutoSteer was already reducing the accident rate. But I’m amazed that it’s already reducing it by nearly 40%!

    Go Tesla!

    Today has to be a very, very bad day for Tesla-bashing TSLA short-sellers. I foresee another “short squeeze” coming very soon!
    😀 😀 😀

    1. Nix says:

      I’m not sure I want to derail this story with talk about shorts, but the squeeze may have already begun.

      The number of TSLA shares being shorted has dropped by 1.25M compared with last month. Dropping from 35.39M to 34.16M out of an available 117.91M float. This may be the start of shorters trying to close out their positions, or at least not taking on new shorts.

      Back in October, TSLA was the 4th most shorted stock out of the NASDAQ 100 companies. Now they have dropped out of the top 1/3rd of NASDAQ 100 companies being shorted.

      With TSLA shares hitting a Day High that is a full $100 dollars/share higher than the 52-week low, signs are definitely there that we could be entering a squeeze. Or we may be seeing exuberance before the next SEC report is released, which will contain critical information on year end financials for 2016, and likely a projection for the total number of units Tesla will target building in 2017.

      Typically the price will rise on expectations, and drop on the news. If share prices keep rising after the SEC report is released, that would be a big sign of a short squeeze in progress.

      Or it could all just be volatility, because by definition, volatile stocks are volatile. They go up. They go down.

      1. Gasbag says:

        phone: Ring…ring
        Caller: Hello, Mr. Spiegel?
        Mark: Yes?
        Caller: This is your margin call.
        Mark: Uh….Hi, I’m not here right now. At the tone please leave a messsage Beeeep.

      2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Nix said:

        “I’m not sure I want to derail this story with talk about shorts…”

        Yes, you’re right. My bad.

        Odd that there are only 22-25 comments here. IMHO this story is one of the most important ones ever covered at InsideEVs!

        A nearly 40% drop, in what is very clearly an apples-to-apples comparison, as a result of nothing but installing AutoSteer, is a real game-changer.

        This is, to quote Bernie Sanders, HUUUUUGE! 😀

        1. Warren says:

          “Odd that there are only 22-25 comments here.”

          Maybe folks are distracted? I, personally, look forward to Auto-president, “instead of competing in a self-defeating fashion.”

          Check out what these “reductionists” have to say. 🙂

          https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/19/cat-in-hells-chance-why-losing-battle-keep-global-warming-2c-climate-change

  9. William says:

    Good call on the Short Squeeze already being in. Today was a precursor, of what may be more prevalent, in the market, with Tesla shares and volatility going forward. The closer the Model 3 gets to coming off the assembly line, look for a few more million short positions to close out at least!

    1. ffbj says:

      Yeah, it’s been in a squeeze for a while now, though it accelerated even more, got worse, for the shorts recently.

      The lack of commentary, as pointed out by PUPM is just an indicator of how many folks who comment here are anti- Tesla. I suppose one could argue there are many positive to Tesla here but when an important story extremely positive for Tesla comes out and half the comments go away… Well I think you get my point.

  10. jack says:

    Too Bad it’s a Us company, other way more billions would rain

  11. Zbig says:

    Elon – show the likes of Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota etc. what technological progress means. Those guys have billions of dollars they could invest in new, clean technologies and yet were not able (willing) to create even one compelling EV or charging network. I wish they looked bankruptcy in the eye one day for the greed and hypocrisy they display.

  12. Martin Welzl says:

    Tesla 100D now available!!

  13. Four Electrics says:

    The per mile fatality rate increased by 9x, unfortunately. But with full autonomy, I expect that statistic to drop as well.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Wut?

      The difference between 0 and 1 isn’t 9x; it’s an infinity, if you foolishly try to apply a ratio instead of merely noting the first occurrence of something. This is a good example of why statistics based on very low sample sizes are pretty meaningless.

      4E, when posting your anti-Tesla FUD, don’t you think it would be better for you if your B.S. wasn’t so obviously nonsense?

  14. Abegude Wanabe says:

    Why was it a “sad day”? A reckless driver made it safer for everyone else on the roads.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Joshua Brown was a big enough Tesla fan to make a short video and post it online to express enthusiasm about his car, and to show off its limited self-driving capacity.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TjbqVartjM

      He was a human being, and deserves better than being treated as a mere statistic.

  15. webdbbt says:

    Anybody able to read the report? I get an xml error doc with access denied tags.

    1. ffbj says:

      Yeah. Looks like they took it down at the source.

      1. Nix says:

        This afternoon, this appeared on the NHTSA homepage:

        “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is pleased to announce our newly re-designed website that enables the American public to easily find important information”

        And ironically, now a whole lot of content is not available now. The site says some stuff might not be available until after the 22nd, so maybe it is coming back.

        Meanwhile *somebody* posted what you are looking for here:

        http://www.slideshare.net/autoblog/tesla-la-nhtsa-scagiona-il-sistema-autopilot-il-verbale

        1. ffbj says:

          Funny. Well that’s the report all right. I suspect something, in that during the so called reorganization, the only article that went poof was the one on Tesla. I was able to access other pdf files. Oh well. Thanks for finding that.

  16. webdbbt says:

    For anyone looking for the report, it can be found under the Ratings section, just search for 2015 Model S, then click on Investations.

    Here is a direct link:
    https://www.nhtsa.gov/vehicle/2015/TESLA/MODEL%252520S%25252060KWH/5%252520HB/RWD#investigations

    1. webdbbt says:

      Investigations…

      Also found there are all the related documents including letters, orders and subpoenas to and responses from Tesla and Mobileye.

      Interesting reading…

  17. MDEV says:

    Somebody has seen sven comments? I guess is crying lol

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