The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has cleared Tesla of any wrongdoing in a fatal accident that occurred in May 2016 involving one of the automaker’s self-driving vehicles.
After a six-month long investigation, the NHTSA concluded on Jan. 19, 2017 that it could not find any evidence that the first fatality caused by a Tesla Model S Autopilot system was due to any safety-related defects within the vehicle.
The NHTSA investigation began in June 2016 after a Tesla driver was killed in Florida when the Model S vehicle he was in collided with a truck while the autopilot feature was activated.
Tesla later stated in a blog post that the Autopilot system did not notice the white side of the tractor trailer against the brightly lit sky and failed to apply the vehicle’s brakes.
Since the accident, Tesla has been under heavy scrutiny for safety issues related to the Autopilot system’s capabilities.
While the NHTSA investigation’s conclusion spared Tesla from a safety recall, the administration has now considered the possibility that advances in vehicle technology may change how future auto recalls are handled.
Tesla’s Model S utilizes over-the-air updates that enable the company to make software improvements without requiring the car’s owner to bring it in to a dealership for servicing.
If more auto manufacturers install this technology within new model vehicles, the requirements for NHTSA oversight in safety-updates will change as well, according to an NHTSA spokesman.
The administration is currently drafting the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, a 15-point guideline that will provide future regulations on self-driving vehicles.
Tesla maintained the position that Autopilot was not responsible for the driver’s death. After the accident occurred, the company issued several over-the-air updates that corrected safety concerns such as the system’s inability to recognize certain objects.
The NHTSA has stated that Tesla’s ability to make over-the-air updates to its vehicles did not have an impact on the investigation’s result.
As emerging technology creates faster alternatives for safety updates, auto manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure that all vehicles meet standards that offer the best protection for its passengers.
The Harrisburg auto accident attorneys at Schmidt Kramer are dedicated to helping those who have been injured in a collision. We understand recovering from an auto accident is difficult and provide our services for free unless we help you receive compensation. Do not hesitate to contact us for a free legal review of your claim.