Thursday, July 14, 2016
The New York Times (7/12, Vlasic, Boudette, Subscription Publication, 14.18M) reports on the front page of its business section that Federal officials are stepping up “their investigation of the fatal crash of a driver operating a Tesla car with its Autopilot system engaged.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “on Tuesday released a detailed set of questions for the carmaker about its automated driving system, particularly the emergency braking function.” The nine-page letter the agency sent Tesla indicated that the NHTSA “was investigating whether there are defects in the various crash-prevention systems related to Autopilot.” The article mentions that the NTSB, “which more typically investigates airline accidents,” is also investigating the crash.
Business Insider (7/12, Debord, 3.06M) specifies that the “NHTSA has asked Tesla to provide extensive information on the crashed Tesla’s Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) systems, as well as the Autosteer function that enables a Tesla vehicle in Autopilot mode to navigate a roadway.”
The AP (7/12, Krisher) reports that the NHTSA is seeking to determine why the Autopilot technology “failed to detect a tractor-trailer that crossed in front of a Model S sedan May 7 in Williston, Florida.” The investigators are “zeroing in on the limitations of the system and how it reacts when obstacles cross its path.” The majority of the inquiry focuses “on how the system works at intersections with crossing traffic, but it also asks Tesla to describe how the system detects ‘compromised or degraded’ signals from cameras and other sensors and how such problems are communicated to drivers.” The NHTSA “also asked Tesla for its reconstruction of the Brown crash, and for details of all known crashes, consumer complaints and lawsuits filed or settled because the Autopilot system didn’t brake as expected,” and “said Tesla must comply with its request by Aug. 26 or face penalties of up to $21,000 per day, to a maximum of $105 million.”
Writing an analysis for Seeking Alpha (7/12, 660K), Paulo Santos writes that the “NHTSA’s probe into autopilot performance has widened,” and is “asking not just information on this particular fatal autopilot accident, but also on other accidents where autopilot might have been involved.” Santos says that now the “NHTSA is trying to get a better grip on autopilot performance in general.”
Bloomberg News (7/12, Shields, 2.07M) reports the NHTSA “says it hasn’t made a determination about whether the vehicles are defective and described the information request as a “standard step” in the preliminary evaluation of Tesla’s automated driving system.”
USA Today (7/12, Bomey, 6.31M) reports that “the safety of Tesla Motors’ partially self-driving car technology is the subject of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation after a crash that killed a driver in Florida who had activated the system in his vehicle.” According to the article, “the NTSB has sent a team of investigators to open an investigation into the crash.” USA Today says that the “NTSB’s investigation is particularly notable because the organization’s car-crash probes typically center on emerging technologies.” NTSB Spokesman Christopher O’Neil said in an email, “the NTSB investigation will be looking more comprehensively at whether the crash reveals systemic issues that might inform the future development of driverless cars and the investigation of crashes involving autonomous vehicles.”
MLive (MI) (7/12, 762K) reports that the NTSB’s investigation has been launched alongside investigations by the NHTSA and the SEC. While the NTSB’s investigation will focus on the broad issue of semi-autonomous driving systems in the US, the NHTSA will look specifically at Tesla’s crash-avoidance system and the SEC will investigate whether Tesla failed to disclose information to investors.
Manufacturing (7/12, Szal, 5K) also reports on the story.
Business Insider: Tesla should be most concerned with NTSB investigation. In an analysis, Business Insider (7/12, DeBord, 3.06M) says that “the real problem for Tesla is that the Florida accident is also being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).” BI says that “it’s entirely possible that the NTSB will recommend that self-driving technologies be far more rigorously tested and regulated, placing Tesla in the position of having to disable Autopilot features or withdraw the system.” The analysis concludes that “a damaging NTSB report could undermine Tesla’s dominant narrative: that it’s the car maker of the future.” which is why the NTSB investigation is the one “that Elon Musk should be most concerned about.”
Tesla has no plans to disable autopilot feature. The Wall Street Journal (7/12, Ramsey, Spector, Bach, Subscription Publication, 6.27M) reports that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says the company has no plans to disable the Autopilot feature in its cars in the wake of a fatal in May involving the Model S. Instead, Musk said the company is planning to heighten efforts to educate customers on how the system works and how to properly use it.
CNBC (7/12, Ferris, 2.45M) reports that Tesla Motors “sees Autopilot as a ‘lifesaving technology’ according to Dow Jones, and said it will ‘redouble its efforts to educate customers.’”
Reuters (7/12, Sadam) reports that Tesla “is planning an explanatory blog post to educate customers.” Musk said in an interview, “A lot of people don’t understand what it is and how you turn it on.”