Tesla Motors Inc was in the bulls eyes after the news of a fatal Model S crash hit the newsstands. Critics have suggested that Elon Musk was being irresponsible by putting beta tech on public roads and that the limitations of autopilot caused the crash. Musk’s fans have replied that the crash might be beyond the control of both human and machine. For what it’s worth, the driver in fatal crash may have been watching Harry Potter instead of keeping his eyes on the road and his hands on the wheel.
The NHTSA has launched an investigation on the crash. Whatever side of the debate you are on, you can be sure that the public will soon have a reconstruction of the events that led to the crash. Latest news reports on the crash indicate that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched an investigation into the fatal crash.
Tesla Autopilot attracts deeper scrutiny from NTSB
Tesla Motors has mostly taken good advantage of loopholes in rules for vehicles on U.S. roads. The current rules seem to have a blind spot for self-driving cars and Tesla has marketed its driver-assist system as a self-driving system by calling it Autopilot. Now, the guardians of autopilot tech are on a fact-finding mission to know if Musk’s Autopilot is worthy of the name.
The NTSB is in charge of car safety regulation in the U.S. and the fatal crash has brought Tesla onto it’s radar. The NTSB mainly investigates the causes of crashes in planes, ships, trains and buses; yet, it has mostly ignored the Tesla’s crashes – until now that is. More so, the NTSB has also sent out a team of experts to unravel the cause of the July 1 crash in which a Model X rolled over after it scraped a concrete barrier.
Joan Claybrook, a former official with NHTSA says “I think it’s very appropriate that N.T.S.B. is doing this, and I welcome it. … I think there’s an urgency to find out if these autonomous systems are at fault because companies continue to push hard to get the technology onto the road.” Christopher A. Hart, chairman of the NTSB says his agency was forced to start investigating Tesla crashes. In his words, “I think people are wildly underestimating the complexity of bringing automation into the system involving Joe Public.”
Germany rejects Beta-Phase autopilot on its roads
German automakers have never made a secret of their rivalry towards Tesla Motors and most of them have EV projects in the works. However, the recent crashes involving Tesla’s cars seem to have provided German automakers with enough ammunitions to lobby the firm out of the German auto market. German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reports that Germany’s Federal Office of Motor Vehicles (KBA) has refused to approve Tesla’s Autopilot system for cars sold in Germany.
A report surfaced over the weekend that the German government was investigating Tesla but the German Transport Ministry has debunked the rumor. The ministry noted that “the report is incorrect. There are no investigation proceedings against Tesla.” Tesla might not be under investigation in Germany, but the firm is surely not selling any self-driving cars in the country anytime soon.
Elon Musk released Autopilot into public beta testing in the hopes that active use of the system on public road will help Autopilot “learn on the job”. However, the KBA takes a stand that “if the word beta-phase means an incomplete status of the software, the KBA would not authorize (such) a functionality.”