Combing Through the Autonomous Experience

As smart as human beings have proven themselves to be, we still can’t technically claim to be perfect. You see, time and time again, our flaws have popped up on the surface, and while some of their appearances have actually ended up teaching us a lot, the others have gone on to cause significant damage along the way. The latter dynamic would eventually encourage us to look for a foolproof defence mechanism. We will, on our part, find that exact mechanism once we bring dedicated regulatory bodies into the fold. This move, in particular, started a massive overhaul. Now, while the stated overhaul did make us feel safer than ever before, the utopia to emerge from it was notably short-lived, and it was all because of technology. With technology and its layered nature taking over the scene, certain rule breakers found themselves having a prime shot at fulfilling their ulterior motives. Such a dynamic, as you can guess, ended up triggering a lot of unrest. However, if there is one positive we can pin our hopes on; it’s the fact that the regulatory community is now finally becoming more and more equipped in regards to handling the complicated nature of the said creation. In fact, a recent NHTSA move puts this very element on full display.

NHTSA has officially decided to step up its probe into Tesla crashes involving first responders. According to a report prepared by The Washington Post, the investigation has entered the engineering analysis phase, which is the last step before agency usually decides whether to recall the vehicle or not. As a part of the ramping up, the probe will also cover an increased 830,000 units, including almost all the vehicles from Tesla Model Y, Model X, Model S, and the Model 3 that the company has sold since 2014. It all started after over 11 Tesla vehicles reportedly crashed into parked emergency responders and trucks. Since then, the agency has observed six more of such incidents. Interestingly enough, most cases showed autopilot giving up vehicle control just less than one second before impact. However, the observations also suggested that the drivers had around 8 seconds between having the first responder in their field of vision and the eventual impact, but despite the buffer period, there was little to no evasive action taken.

Beyond these incidents, NHTSA even studied 191 crashes that didn’t involve any first responders. In 53 of the crashes, the driver was straight away deemed as ‘insufficiently responsive’. This fact would make the agency question if Tesla’s instructions of having your hands on the wheel were having any effect at all. Furthermore, even though several details point to driver’s failure as the chief reason behind these collisions, the agency is still not quite ready to let Tesla off the hook.  According to the NTHSA, “a driver’s use or misuse of vehicle components or operation of a vehicle in an unintended manner does not necessarily preclude a system defect.”

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