Thursday, September 16

Investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot Crash Expands as Ford, BMW, and 10 Other Automakers Request Data

The investigation into car accidents involving Tesla’s “Autopilot” autonomous driving system was deepened this week as US road safety authorities sent data demands in automated vehicles to twelve other automakers.

On Monday, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent letters to major manufacturers, including Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW request documents related to vehicles with level two “Advanced Driver Assistance Systems”.

Tier two vehicles are “partially automated” and can control driving systems such as steering, braking, and acceleration automatically.

NHTSA’s request for data from the top 12 automakers comes two weeks after a similar demand for autopilot crash data from Tesla.

What is NHTSA asking for?

The safety agency asked the companies to provide details on how many Level Two vehicles they had sold in the United States, the software they are running, and the total distance traveled with the automation features turned on.

Manufacturers must also provide NHTSA with reports on crashes involving automated vehicles, lawsuits involving technology, and customer complaints about their Level Two cars.

The agency requested the data to conduct a “comparative analysis” of cars equipped with Level Two driver assistance systems, it said, as its goal is to find out whether crashing into parked vehicles is just a Tesla problem, or a problem. broader problem with automation in general.

Automakers contacted by NHTSA must respond or face a fine of up to 97 million euros, the agency said.

Tesla under investigation

The investigation into Tesla’s autopilot system began in August after a series of accidents involving company cars and emergency services vehicles parked in the US.

Last month, NHTSA said it had identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control struck vehicles in scenes where first responders used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, or warning cones. of dangers.

The investigation covered accidents that resulted in 17 injuries and one death, before another fatal accident in New York was added to the agency’s investigation earlier this month.

Vehicles with level two automation systems like Tesla’s are described by the Society of Automotive Engineers as “partially automated.” Officially, Level Two systems require the driver to give their full attention, “remain committed to the task of driving and monitor the environment at all times.”

Tesla has previously said that Autopilot is a driver assistance system and that drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.

Driven to distraction

However, a report by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released Tuesday suggests that drivers using the autopilot may pay less attention to the road than those driving without it.

The data revealed that while the autopilot function, which can control lane changes and maintain a safe separation from other vehicles, was activated, drivers took their eyes off the road more frequently and for longer periods of time.

“Visual behavior patterns change before and after disengaging from the autopilot. Before disengagement, drivers looked less at the road and focused more on non-driving-related areas compared to after transitioning to driving. manual, “the researchers wrote.

The study used data from an ongoing MIT study on driver automation that employs cameras that track the movements of Tesla drivers to determine their “gaze pattern” – how much time they spent looking at the road or elsewhere while driving.

“The higher proportion of off-road glances before disconnection to manual driving was not offset by longer glances ahead,” they added.

The study also found that off-road gazes tended to be longer with autopilot than without, and gazes at Tesla’s center console, home to the vehicle’s large infotainment screen, were always up to 0. , 9 seconds longer while the system was in use.

Musk’s bold claims

In April, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted about crash data that he claimed showed Teslas on autopilot were nearly 10 times less likely to have an accident than the average vehicle.

Figures from the company Musk cited showed that, on average, there was one accident for every 4.19 million miles (6.74 million km) driven on autopilot, and one for every 2.05 million miles. (3.29 million km) for Teslas using the company’s active safety features like Blind Spot Collision Warnings and Automatic Braking.

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