From Revolutionary Tech Investor (Australia)-
The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the main body for road safety in the US. Their mission is to achieve the ‘highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety’.
Right now the NHTSA is investigating an accident that could be the most important investigation they’ve had since their establishment in 1970.
On 7 May in Williston, Florida, 40 year old Joshua Brown was driving along a divided highway in his Tesla Model S. He had engaged Tesla’s ‘autopilot’ function.
Tesla’s autopilot function is their early attempt at self driving car technology. Tesla explains the autopilot,
‘…increases the driver’s confidence behind the wheel with features to help the car avoid hazards and reduce the driver’s workload. While Model S can’t make traffic disappear, it can make it a lot easier, safer, and more pleasant to endure.’
The autopilot is built in to all Model S and Model X cars, and will also feature in the upcoming Model 3 cars. It’s engaged and updated ‘over-the-air’ by Tesla. Some of the functions of the autopilot include auto steer, auto lane change, and automatic emergency steering and side collision warning.
Take, for example, a situation where a car swerves into you from the side because the driver doesn’t see you in their blindspot. In this situation the Tesla is designed to automatically steer away from the hazard, making sure that the safety of the driver and passengers is maintained.
And the function has been working well. Just weeks before 7 May, Joshua Brown recorded dash-cam footage of his Model S actively preventing a side collision thanks to the autopilot.
But on 7 May the autopilot didn’t perform as expected.