Tesla Motors Inc. is getting no slack from the Autopilot crashes that plague its publicity right now. The pressure is mounting on two sides as well. On the one hand, the American luxury EV maker has to keep investors, the public, and its buyers content with the assured safety of its cars. On the other, the very same safety assurances need to be offered to the authorities.
Autopilot crashes cause trouble for Tesla
Following the Autopilot crash that took the life of Joshua Brown in Florida, a few federal parties have had a look into the incident. Driving along a motorway in Florida. Brown lost his life when his Model S was involved in a collision with a truck. Tesla reports that the man’s autopilot was enabled at the time of the accident.
First to investigate was the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It was the administration’s interest that made Tesla Motors disclose the matter publicly. The NHTSA was joined by the National Transportation Safety Board just 2 weeks after the announcement. However, according to a the board, its take on the incident is more educational than for persecution. The NTSB seeks to observe the initial implications of automation on public roads.
“There’s an opportunity to learn from the information about how automation is introduced into American highways,” the NTSB assured. “The interest in this accident relates to the automation.”
Tesla to brief U.S. Senate
Now Tesla Motors has to report to yet another government authority — the U.S. Senate. Reuters reports that the company was advised on Thursday to explain the details of the May 7 accident. Tesla will be briefing the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
The senate committee is lead by Senator John Thune. The South Dakota Republican asked Tesla CEO Elon Musk to brief his committee on the details of the May 7 Autopilot crash by the 29th of July.
The incident, along with a few others, has cast a dark shadow on what was just weeks ago seen as a reliable Tesla feature. Now the safety of the EV giant’s Autopilot tech is held in question. Even influential outlets have swarmed down on Tesla Motors and called the company to do away with the self-driving system.
“We’re deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology. ‘Autopilot’ can’t drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time.”
That statement came from Consumer Reports. A trusted reviewer, the outlet once gave the Tesla Model S their highest rating ever. Although it has now advised that Tesla rethinks how consumers use allowed to use Autopilot.
The reviewer’s Laura MacCleery says simply calling the system “Autopilot” lulls the driver into a false sense of security.
But Tesla Motors was appreciative of the advice. The firm responded, saying that though is respects good advice, it will operate using actual data and not “speculation by media.”
Pennsylvania Autopilot crash fallacy
A great example of such speculation is the is the Pennsylvania Model X crash of a Detroit gallery owner. Both Albert Scaglione and the media insist that the car was on Autopilot when it crashed. Official reports from Tesla claim otherwise though. Elon Musk reports on his Twitter account:
“Onboard vehicle logs show Autopilot was turned off in Pennsylvania crash. Moreover, crash would not have occurred if it was on.”
Scaglione’s car was flipped onto its roof while moving on the Pensylvania Turnpike, about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh. Both Scaglione, 77, and his son-in-law survived the wreckage and were treated at a nearby hospital. He told CNN Money that Autopilot was engaged during the accident, but refused to comment any further. It is stories like his though that have pushed for deeper federal investigations.