Tesla Cleared In Deadly Crash Case Concerning Autopilot

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk praised the decision by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which not only put the responsibility for the deadly Autopilot accident last year primarily on the driver but also did not order a recall. On Thursday, U.S. auto safety regulators said they found no evidence of defects in the electric car that was involved in the man’s death.

Automakers must be clear about the technology

On Thursday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters that drivers have a duty to take their obligation to maintain control of a car seriously. Foxx said that automakers must explain the limits of semi-autonomous systems. One limitation in the case of Tesla’s Autopilot was that the system could not detect a tractor trailer that crossed the road in front of the victim’s Model S.

Foxx said, “The (auto) industry is going to have to be clear about what the technology does and what it is does not do, and communicate it clearly.”

NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas said not all systems can do all things. He explained that there are driving scenarios that the Autopilot’s emergency braking systems are not designed to address.

“Autopilot requires full driver engagement at all times,” the spokesman said.

Also on Thursday in an interview, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, said it is essential that regulators enable the freedom and flexibility to innovate but also prevent tech that it is not quite ready to be on the road.

A win-win decision for Tesla and self-driving tech

The crash occurred in May 2016 near Williston, Florida, where a Tesla Model S sedan, collided with a truck while it was using the Autopilot system. The case was being watched closely because automakers are racing to automate more driving tasks without exposing themselves to more liability risks.

Joshua Brown was operating his car in Autopilot mode just before he collided with a truck and died. In its report, the NHTSA said that Brown didn’t apply the brakes, and his last action was to set the cruise, notes Reuters

The NHTSA‘s decision is a win-win for Tesla and other automakers working on similar tech. The fatal crash attracted quite a lot of attention and threatened to sidetrack the push towards self-driving vehicles.

Jack Landskroner, the lawyer for Brown’s family, said that they are planning to evaluate all the information from the government agencies investigating the fatal crash before taking any position or making any decisions on these matters.

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