Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving linked to hundreds of crashes, dozens of deaths

NHTSA links Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving to hundreds of crashes and dozens of deaths.

: The NHTSA investigation found Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features contributed to numerous crashes and fatalities. The agency highlighted the technology's failure to keep drivers engaged, leading to accidents due to inattention. Despite the investigation and a voluntary recall by Tesla, concerns about the technology's safety persist.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an investigation into Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) features, uncovering a disturbing pattern of crashes and fatalities linked to these advanced driver-assistance systems. The investigation, covering incidents from January 2018 to August 2023, scrutinized 956 crashes, finding that Tesla's technology often failed to ensure drivers remained engaged with the task of driving. This disengagement, combined with the system's operational deficiencies, led to 29 deaths and numerous other injuries. NHTSA pointed out specific design flaws in Tesla's approach to Level 2 automation, notably a lack of effective mechanisms to ensure driver attentiveness and a decision to allow Autopilot to disengage rather than encourage steering adjustments by the driver.

The NHTSA's findings underline a significant mismatch between Tesla's branding of its technology and the actual level of autonomy it provides. With terms like 'Autopilot' and 'Full Self-Driving,' Tesla's marketing suggests a level of capability that exceeds the technology's current state, leading to driver overreliance and complacency. Investigations by California's attorney general and the Department of Motor Vehicles into Tesla's potentially misleading marketing practices further emphasize the gulf between expectations and reality. Despite Tesla's voluntary recall and software updates intended to address these issues, critics argue the measures are insufficient, and the technology continues to allow for misuse.

Elon Musk's assertions that Tesla vehicles are moving toward fully autonomous operation face increased scrutiny in light of NHTSA's findings. The investigation reveals systemic issues with how Tesla's driver-assist technologies engage users and prevent accidents, casting doubt on the safety benefits Musk attributes to autonomy. This situation underscores a broad challenge in the automotive industry: balancing innovation in autonomous vehicle technology with the imperative of safety. As Tesla moves forward with plans for a robotaxi and other autonomous advancements, ensuring driver and public safety in the transition to autonomous mobility remains paramount.