excuses excuses...

The blows to Tesla just keep on coming after the Model S accident that resulted in the first Autopilot-related death. Under pretty heavy scrutinizing, the company is under investigation by the NTSB to determine if the Autopilot system in that Model S is at fault, while the NHTSA is currently investigating whether or not the system poses an unreasonable risk to driver safety. As part of the ongoing investigations, Tesla has now reportedly told the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee that it has two theories of why the Model S in that fatal accident crashed, but somehow still manages to deny that the Autopilot system is at fault.

That’s the news reported by Reuters, which is citing a source that is “familiar” with the meeting. Tesla is apparently looking at two potential reasons for the crash. The first is that the radar and camera input for the emergency braking system failed to detect the truck and trailer. The other potential reason is that the system may have falsely discounted the input received indicating the trailer as an obstacle. According to Tesla, the system is designed to “tune out” structures like bridges or overhead signs to avoid braking under false pretenses.

So far Tesla has remained largely silent on the issue and the meeting, with the exception of suggesting that the camera and radar systems weren’t at fault. Tesla has confirmed to Reuters that the meeting has occurred, but has yet to disclose the major topics of conversation that occurred during the meeting. According to Reuters’s source, Tesla views the emergency braking system as a separate entity from the Autopilot system. For the record, it has been announced by the NTSB that the Model S involved in the fatal accident was doing nine mph over the posted 65 mph speed limit when the accident occurred.

Why it Matters

You know, I’m a pretty big fan of Tesla and the advances it’s made in not only battery technology but electric vehicles as a whole. But, this is getting a little ridiculous. Of course, accidents are going to happen with the implementation of new technology – especially technology that allows vehicles to drive themselves – but it seems like Tesla is working rather hard to defend its Autopilot system. In one sense, I get it – I wouldn’t want to discount my amazing self-driving technology either – however when you start trying to separate the braking system from the autopilot system, you’re reaching pretty damn hard. The Autopilot system and EBS system may operate as separate systems, but they are supposed to work together, right? So, if the braking system did fail, wouldn’t that ultimately point to a system flaw? Furthermore, the car was speeding, which is also a flaw that shouldn’t have happened.

I get that Tesla is attempting to protect its great system, but suck it up and admit that the system was at least partially at fault. Don’t try to beat around the bush and dissect the different systems to make the autopilot system look like a rose in a pile of crap. It seems to me that Tesla is trying to cover its own ass and direct attention to different systems in an attempt to prevent the NHTSA from banning the Autopilot system until it can be finalized free of risk to drivers. Musk, you’re a bright individual, but you and your Autopilot system aren’t perfect.

Source: Reuters

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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