Tesla ― and all automakers developing self-driving vehicles ― must be upfront about the limitations of their technology, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told Reuters on Thursday, so that drivers are not lulled into a false sense of security.
US regulators has found no evidence of any defects in Tesla electric cars after investigating the death of a man whose Model S collided with a truck while he was using its Autopilot system, the first fatality involving semi-autonomous driving software. The regulators said they have found no safety defects in the vehicle's automated driving system and that Tesla's Autopilot-enabled vehicles did not need to be recalled.
On May 7 previous year, a Tesla Model S with the semi- autonomous autopilot system activated, was involved in a fatal crash.
Last year, Joshua Brown was killed in a fatal accident when his 2015 Tesla Model S struck with a tractor-trailer in Williston, Florida.
The NHTSA investigation report called seven seconds a "period of extended distraction", and noted that similar crashes generally had a "much shorter time" available for both the system and driver to detect and respond to a pending collision, usually less than three seconds.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk rushed to highlight NHTSA's conclusion that there was no safety defect in his company vehicles that are equipped with the Autopilot feature.
More important, NHTSA said that Autosteer, another element in Tesla's driver-assistance package, had reduced crashes ny almost 40 percent.
Driver in fatal Tesla Autopilot crash had seven seconds to take action
The Tesla system required "the continual and full attention of the driver to monitor the traffic environment and be prepared to take action to avoid crashes", NHTSA said in the report.
Still, NHTSA spokesperson Bryan Thomas said that owners of vehicles with ADAS should be trained how to use the semi-autonomous system upon purchase.
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. The agency says self-driving features could dramatically reduce traffic deaths by eliminating human error, which plays a role in 94 percent of fatal crashes.
The NHTSA report found that the collision avoidance system was primarily created to recognize the backs of cars, and failed to spot the trailer.
The federal investigation by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), which included crash rate data provided by Tesla, found that vehicles using Autopilot features were actually 40% less likely to crash.
Consumer Reports magazine had foreshadowed this criticism, calling on Tesla to drop the "Autopilot" name. According to International Business Times, the German government has also been critical of term "Autopilot" and reportedly asked Tesla to stop using it, saying it is "misleading."
Although the NHTSA probe was looking for defects in the system, the more serious concern was that Tesla was giving its drivers too much confidence in a system that still requires constant driver attention.