U.S. safety agency seeks answers on fatal Tesla Autopilot crash

Tue Jul 12, 2016 10:04pm EDT
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. highway safety regulators have demanded that Tesla Motors Inc hand over detailed information about the design, operation and testing of its Autopilot technology following a May 7 fatal crash in which the system was in use.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), investigating an accident that has increased scrutiny of automated driving technology, also wants to know what Tesla investigators have learned about the crash.

The agency's nine-page letter dated July 8 was made public Tuesday. It requires the Palo Alto-based automaker to file responses in the coming weeks.

Joshua Brown was killed when his vehicle, operating on Autopilot in Florida, drove under a tractor trailer. It was first known fatality to involve a Model S operating on the Autopilot system that takes control of steering and braking in certain conditions.

The agency is seeking details of all design changes and updates to Autopilot since it went into use last year, and information on whether Tesla plans updates in the next four months.

It also wants records of how many times the system told drivers to put their hands on the wheel and how often that led to the car automatically reducing vehicle power.

Other questions include what Autopilot does when cameras and sensors aren't working properly, how the system was tested, and how it filters out "false positive events and interventions."

NHTSA sends such letters as a part of its safety probes. Tesla declined to comment on the letter. Its stock was little changed at $224.65 a share, a decline of less than 0.1 percent.   Continued...

A Tesla Model S involved in the fatal crash on May 7, 2016 is shown with the top third of the car sheared off by the impact of the collision of the Tesla with a tractor-trailer truck on nearby highway and came to rest in the yard of Robert and Chrissy VanKavelaar in Williston, Florida, U.S. on May 7, 2016.  Courtesy Robert VanKavelaar/Handout via REUTERS