Self-driving cars have long been the holy grail of automakers. While the technology isn’t quite to the point where people can lounge in the seat reading the paper while a car drives them to work, significant advancements have been made. The Autopilot system available on some Tesla models allow for adaptive cruise control, lane centering, self-parking, automatic lane change, and to summon the car from a garage to and from a parking spot. Despite these abilities, Tesla has come under scrutiny for the system, which has been engaged during several high-profile accidents. Now, the National Transportation Safety Bureau is saying that the Autopilot system lets drivers rely too much on automation, as WSB Radio reports.
A government investigation has found that Tesla’s autopilot system and driver inattention combined to cause a Tesla S electric car to plow into a parked firetruck on a California freeway.
The NTSB investigation concluded that the driver relied too much on the autopilot system, which also allowed the driver to disengage himself from driving. The findings of the agency bring into question the effectiveness of Autopilot, which was engaged at the time of the accident. It was also engaged at the time of three other accidents, which were fatal, since 2016.
The crash occurred when a larger vehicle that had been ahead of the Tesla changed lanes. The Tesla then hit the pickup truck which had been parked with emergency lights flashing as firefighters were involved with another crash.
Tesla has repeatedly said that its Autopilot system is designed only to assist drivers and that drivers must remain attentive and prepared to intervene at any time.
Tesla founder Elon Musk has promised a fully automated vehicle that utilizes the same sensors as current Tesla vehicles, but with a larger computer and processor. The current year model Teslas have more sensors than the 2014 model involved in the accident.
At the time of the crash with the firetruck, the automatic braking system failed to engage, and the driver did not brake. The driver’s hands were not on the steering wheel at the time of the accident and a witness said the driver appeared to be looking down at his cellphone. Cellphone records do not indicate the driver was texting at the time, but it can not be determined if the driver was utilizing social media or another app.
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