According to a recent report on Automotive News, the Dutch government claims its forensic lab was able to "hack" into Tesla's data storage system to learn a host of information that may help investigators now and in the future.
Tesla stores the driving and accident data, and at times, it has to share it with investigators. However, the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) says there's much more data available, or at least more than it knew existed. The NFI said Tesla complies with investigators, though it only provides some of the data. More specifically, it gives the team what is requested, but not necessarily more than requested. An investigator at the NFI shared:
"These data contain a wealth of information for forensic investigators and traffic accident analysts and can help with a criminal investigation after a fatal traffic accident or an accident with injury."
The data Tesla collects ranges from vehicle speed, accelerator pedal position, steering wheel angle, and brake usage, to details about the operation of the brand's advanced driver-assist systems. Obviously, the stored information has key details about Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Beta technologies.
The lab didn't attempt to get Tesla to release the data, but rather, the organization sort of "reverse engineered" the company's data logs. This all went down as the NFI was investigating a collision where it seems Tesla Autopilot was involved.
In the NFI's investigation, it learned that the Tesla driver reacted on time and took control of the car. However, the car still crashed since it was following another car too closely. Was it Autopilot's fault for the unsafe following distance, or the driver's?
The NFI says breakthroughs like this don't only apply to Tesla, but all automakers. If investigators have the ability to retrieve all data, they'll have a much easier time when it comes to crash investigations. As advanced driver-assist and semi-autonomous driving systems become more capable and widely used, there will most certainly be a greater need to determine fault when there's an accident.
There's a whole can of worms related to "self-driving" that begs many questions for regulators, investigators, local authorities, and insurance companies. Was an incident the car's fault? Can the automaker be blamed? Was the driver responsible? Fully or partly?
Hopefully, the fact the Tesla stores and shares data, along with the fact that such labs can access all sorts of additional information, will help the authorities and insurance companies going forward. In the grand scheme of things, this should all work to help regulators as semi-autonomous and eventually fully autonomous vehicles enter the mainstream.