In a major development, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has started a probe into Tesla’s autopilot system. The probe will look into 11 crashes where the autopilot was engaged.
An ODI document says: “The investigation will assess the technologies and methods used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement with the dynamic driving task during Autopilot operation.”
The document further details that most crashes took place after dark and the crash scenes encountered included scene control measures. Recently, another probe was opened into 30 Tesla crashes where the autopilot system was involved. While the company has made some changes to its autopilot system, it is still far from being a completely autonomous driving system.
Tesla has been criticized in the past for not using LiDAR sensors to navigate in the dark or through bad weather. However, the company still uses multiple cameras with different fields of view to navigate using its autopilot system.
There have also been reports of Teslas hitting parked first-responder vehicles in the past. The NHTSA report points to autopilot failing to prevent crashes that include first responder vehicle lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, and road cones. While the company’s autopilot has been cleared of several crashes in the past, the probe is looking into set conditions where the autopilot may have been involved.
While Teslas have multiple sensors to make sure the driver is actively engaged even during autopilot mode, there have been instances where people tricked Tesla’s autopilot system. As sophisticated as it is, the autopilot is not a full-fledged self-driving system. The company is currently testing the beta version of its Level 2 Autopilot System, which may bring full self-driving functionality to Teslas.