Did Autopilot Make Tesla Cars Safer?

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into a fatal Tesla crash a year ago has determined that the auto manufacturer should face no further action and has improved safety considerably.Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old OH man, was using his Tesla Model S in autopilot mode, when he collided with a tractor trailer that was attempting to turn left in front of him.In the wake of the 2016 accidents, Tesla modified Autopilot, which it describes as a semi-autonomous system, to ensure drivers don’t take their hands off the wheel for extended periods and reminding them of the need to remain aware of road conditions.Statistically, the government agency found Teslas (both Model S and Model X) with the Autopilot installed crashed about 40 percent less often than their purely human-driven counterparts.Tesla also tightened its cars’ approach to drivers who seem to not be paying attention.However, it also said: “The closing of this investigation does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that no safety-related defect exists”. The agency said Brown didn’t take actions such as braking, steering, or attempting to avoid the truck before the crash.And Thomas questioned the marketing of the technology as an “autopilot” feature, which could contribute to drivers overestimating the car’s capability.In a statement, Tesla said activating its autopilot function requires clear driver acknowledgement that the system is new technology and still in a public beta phase. He also noted in an exchange with followers that Tesla is targeting a 90% crash rate reduction with its second-generation self-driving hardware and Enhanced Autopilot features “as the software matures”. Preliminary reports on the NHTSA’s investigation found that Brown was traveling at 74 miles per hour, which would have given any AEB system even less time to identify a hazard and stop.The investigation relates to a Tesla Model S that ploughed at high speed – about 120km/h – into the side of a semi-trailer that was crossing the highway in front of it.Tesla detailed its plans to enhance Autopilot previous year, implementing limitations to driverless rides alongside other features that Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, said would have avoided the unfortunate incident.Since the death of Joshua Brown, Tesla has updated its Autopilot system by creating a “strike out” strategy where the driver must respond to visual warnings in the monitor system or else face the loss of Autopilot. After analyzing mileage and airbag deployment data for Model S and Model X cars equipped with Autopilot, the NHTSA concluded that “the Tesla vehicles’ crash rate dropped by nearly 40 percent after Autosteer installation”.