U.S. regulator finds no evidence of defects after Tesla death probe

Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:21pm EST
 
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. auto safety regulators said on Thursday they found no evidence of defects in a Tesla Motors Inc TSLA.O car involved in the death of a man whose Model S collided with a truck while he was using its Autopilot system.

The case has been closely watched as automakers race to automate more driving tasks without exposing themselves to increased liability risks.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, on his Twitter account, praised the decision by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which did not order a recall and put the responsibility for the accident primarily on the driver, former Navy SEAL Joshua Brown.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters on Thursday that drivers have a duty to take seriously their obligation to maintain control of a vehicle. He said automakers also must explain the limits of semi-autonomous systems. In the case of Tesla's Autopilot, one limitation was that the system could not detect a truck trailer that crossed the road in front of the victim's Tesla.

"The (auto) industry is going to have to be clear about what the technology does and what it is does not do, and communicate it clearly," Foxx said.

Jack Landskroner, a lawyer for Brown's family, said they plan to evaluate all the information from government agencies investigating the crash "before making any decisions or taking any position on these matters."

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, said in an interview on Thursday "it is important regulators allow the flexibility and freedom to innovate, but also prevent technology that is not quite ready for prime time to get on the road."

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FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo hangs on a building outside of a Tesla dealership in New York, U.S., April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo