DETROIT (AFP) – Two incidents of Tesla apparently operating on autopilot warrant scrutiny from federal regulators and point to a new potential danger on US highways: partially automated vehicles may not stop for motorcycles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration dispatched investigation teams into two crashes last month in which Tesla crashed into motorbikes on highways in the dark. Both were fatal.
The agency suspects that Tesla’s partially automated driver assistance system was in use in both. The agency says that once it gathers more information, it may include crashes in a broader investigation of emergency vehicles hitting Tesla. Parked along the highways. NHTSA is also investigating more than 750 complaints that Teslas can brake without cause.
The motorcyclist’s first accident occurred at 4:47 a.m. July 7 on State Route 91, a highway in Riverside, California. A white Tesla Model Y SUV was driving east in the high-occupancy driveway. The California Highway Patrol said in a statement that before her he was a rider on a green Yamaha V-Star motorcycle.
At one point, the vehicles collided, and the unknown motorcyclist was kicked out of the Yamaha. The fire department announced his death at the scene.
A spokesman for the Republican People’s Party said whether or not Tesla is on autopilot.
The second accident occurred at approximately 1:09 a.m. July 24 on Interstate 15 near Draper, Utah. A Tesla Model 3 was behind a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, also in a well-spaced lane. “The Tesla driver did not see the motorcyclist and hit the rear of the motorbike, which the rider threw off the bike,” the Utah Department of Public Safety said in a prepared statement.
The rider, identified as Landon Embry, 34, of Orem, Utah, died at the scene. The statement said the driver of a Tesla car told authorities that he was operating in the vehicle’s autopilot mode.
Michael Brooks, acting executive director of the nonprofit Center for Automotive Safety, called on NHTSA to call in Tesla’s autopilot because it does not recognize motorcyclists, emergency vehicles, or pedestrians.
“It’s very clear to me, and it should be to many Tesla owners by now, that these things are not working properly and will not live up to expectations, and put innocent people at risk on the roads,” Brooks said.
Since 2016, the NHTSA has dispatched teams to 39 incidents where it suspects automated driving systems are in use, according to agency documents. Of these, 30 people were involved in Teslas operations, including accidents that caused 19 deaths.
Brooks criticized the agency for continuing to investigate with no action taken. “What the hell are they doing while these incidents keep happening?” Asked. “Drivers are drawn into thinking that this protects them and others on the roads, which doesn’t work.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has eliminated the use of radar from his systems and relies solely on cameras and computer memory. Brooks and other safety advocates say the lack of radar hurts visibility in the dark.
She left messages asking for comment from Tesla, which had dissolved its media relations department.
Tesla said autopilot and “full autonomous driving” cannot drive themselves, and that drivers must be prepared to intervene at all times.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times published on Friday mentioned The California Department of Motor Vehicles accused Tesla of false advertising in its promotion of autopilot and fully autonomous driving. The newspaper reported that the accusations came in complaints filed with the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings on July 28.
In an interview in June, new NHTSA Administrator Stephen Cliff said the agency is stepping up efforts to understand the risks imposed by motorized vehicles so that it can identify regulations that may be necessary to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians. There are no federal regulations that directly cover self-driving vehicles or those with partially automated driver assistance systems such as autopilot.
The agency also says the technology holds great promise for reducing traffic accidents.
The NHTSA has also ordered all automakers and technology companies with automated driving systems to report all accidents. The agency released the first batch of data in June showing that nearly 400 incidents were reported over a 10-month period, Including 273 with Teslas. But she cautioned against making comparisons, saying Tesla’s information technologies allow it to collect data in real time, much faster than other companies.
Tesla’s autopilot keeps cars in their lane and a distance behind other vehicles. The company is also using selected owners to test the “fully self-driving” program, which is designed to complete a route alone with human supervision. Ultimately, Musk says, the cars will drive themselves, enabling a fleet of autonomous robotics that will boost Tesla’s profits. In 2019, Musk pledged to operate the automated hub in 2020.
He said at the annual meeting of the company’s shareholders on Thursday That “full autonomous driving” has improved significantly, and he expects the software to be available by the end of the year to all owners who request it.
Researcher Rhonda Schaffner in New York and writer Stephanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed to this report.