The first death potentially caused by self-driving technology is now being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The driver of a Tesla car died in Florida in May after colliding with a truck.
Under scrutiny is Tesla’s Autopilot feature, which automatically changes lanes and reacts to traffic.
In a statement, Tesla said it appeared the Model S car was unable to recognize “the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky” that had driven across the car’s path.
Tesla said the crash was a “tragic loss”.
The collision led to the death of Tesla driver Joshua Brown, 40. The driver of the truck, which was pulling a trailer, was unhurt.
A video on YouTube, which appears to have been posted by Joshua Brown, shows a dashboard camera recording of a previous incident, with the car steering to avoid a truck in the next lane.
He wrote: “Tesla Model S autopilot saved the car autonomously from a side collision from a boom lift truck.
“Hands down the best car I have ever owned and use it to its full extent. It has done many, many amazing things, but this was one of the more interesting things caught on the dashcam.”
On June 30, Tesla stressed that cars being controlled by Autopilot had travelled 130 million safe miles to date.
Tesla said in a statement: “The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”
“Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents.”
The NHTSA will look at whether the Autopilot function performed as expected, or was at fault.
Such investigations can sometimes lead to a recall. Should that be the case, it is likely Tesla would put out an “over-the-air” update to its cars, rather than having to physically take the vehicles back.
However, the incident could be a serious blow to the reputation of autonomous technology at a time when regulators across the world are considering how to safely introduce it on public roads.
Tesla’s shares dropped by 3% after the government said it would investigate the crash.
The Autopilot function was introduced by Tesla in October 2016. In a conference call, the company’s enigmatic chief executive Elon Musk urged caution in using the technology.
“The driver cannot abdicate responsibility,” he said.
In June 30 statement, Tesla said: “It is important to note that Tesla disables Autopilot by default and requires explicit acknowledgement that the system is new technology and still in a public beta phase before it can be enabled.
“The system also makes frequent checks to ensure that the driver’s hands remain on the wheel and provides visual and audible alerts if hands-on is not detected.
“It then gradually slows down the car until hands-on is detected again.”
In its statement, the NHTSA stressed: “The opening of the Preliminary Evaluation should not be construed as a finding that the Office of Defects Investigation believes there is either a presence or absence of a defect in the subject vehicles.”
Fiat Chrysler has announced it is recalling more than 1.1 million cars worldwide over fears they may roll away after drivers get out.
There have been as many as 41 injuries because drivers mistakenly believed they had put the automatic cars in “park”.
The recall covers cars and SUVs whose gearshifts could be confusing to drivers.
More than 850,000 vehicles in North America are affected, along with just over 250,000 elsewhere.
The affected models include 2012 to 2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans and 2014/15 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs.
Fiat Chrysler said it would update the vehicles to automatically prevent them from moving, even if the driver fails to put the vehicle in park. The company did not say when the fix would become available to owners.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in February it had reports of 314 complaints, including 121 crashes after vehicles rolled away. Some hit buildings, drivers or other cars and many incidents occurred soon after the vehicles were bought.
Injury reports included three complaints of a fractured pelvis, and four others requiring some form of hospitalization.
An NHTSA spokesman said the agency would monitor the recall to ensure it took place as quickly as possible.
Fiat Chrysler said it began equipping the Charger and 300 with a new gearshift design for the 2015 model, while the Grand Cherokee was updated for the following year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has expanded a recall of vehicles with potentially dangerous Takata airbags to 7.8 million.
The NHTSA warned that owners should take “immediate action”.
If deployed with force, the airbags have the potential to eject deadly shrapnel at passengers.
The NHTSA has identified 10 manufacturers who used Takata as a supplier, including General Motors, Honda, and Toyota.
The agency has told those who might own affected vehicles to check the list at www.safercar.gov, and specifically warned those living in more humid climates such as Florida and Hawaii to get their vehicles inspected.
“Responding to these recalls, whether old or new, is essential to personal safety and it will help aid our ongoing investigation into Takata airbags and what appears to be a problem related to extended exposure to consistently high humidity and temperatures,” said NHTSA deputy administrator David Friedman in a statement.
The NHTSA has expanded a recall of vehicles with potentially dangerous Takata airbags to 7.8 million
Initially, the NHTSA said that only 4.7 million cars could be affected, but it has increased the number of vehicles twice in recent days.
Japanese supplier Takata warned recently that older airbags could explode with too much force, which would send plastic and metal parts towards passengers with enough force to injure them.
Takata said it estimated that around 12 million vehicles around the globe may contain the parts.
The recall notices have been ongoing for the past 18 months, but regulators and car manufacturers have warned that only a small percentage of those cars potentially affected have been returned and inspected.
The majority of the affected vehicles – more than five million – are Honda cars manufactured between 2001 and 2011, including the Accord, Civic, and Pilot models.
Chrysler has finally agreed to voluntarily recall 2.7 million Jeeps that could be at risk of fuel tank fires, after initially refusing a government request to do so.
Chrysler said it had resolved its differences with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The recall affects Jeep Grand Cherokeesfrom 1993-2004 and Jeep Libertysfrom 2002-07.
Chrysler maintains that the vehicles are not defective, but said it regards safety as a “paramount concern”.
The company said dealers would inspect the vehicles and, if necessary, provides an upgrade to the rear structure to better manage low-speed crashes.
Chrysler has finally agreed to voluntarily recall 2.7 million Jeeps that could be at risk of fuel tank fires
Earlier this month, the NHTSA asked Chrysler to voluntarily recall the Grand Cherokees and Libertys, saying that if hit from the rear, the fuel tanks could leak fuel and cause fires.
It said the location of the tanks behind the axle and their height above the road was a design defect.
The agency said it had evidence of at least 37 rear-impact crashes and fires, causing 51 deaths.
At the time, Chrysler said it did not intend to recall the vehicles.
But in a statement on Tuesday, the company said: “Chrysler Group’s analysis of the data confirms that these vehicles are not defective and are among the safest in the peer group.
“Nonetheless, Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in co-ordination with NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles.”
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