NHTSA Indicates Imminent Conclusion and Comprehensive Disclosure of Tesla Autopilot Probe

Key Points

  • 🔍 The NHTSA is about to reveal findings from its Tesla Autopilot investigation, focusing on collisions with roadside emergency vehicles.
  • 🚗 NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson anticipates resolving the probe soon and emphasizes driver attention and cautious trust in technology.
  • 📅 Investigation started in August 2021, examining Tesla’s Level 2 ADAS System (Autopilot) in 2014-2021 Model S, X, 3, and Y vehicles.
  • 📈 Upgraded in June 2022 to an engineering analysis, assessing collisions involving Autopilot on 830,000 vehicles.
  • 📊 Preliminary Evaluation studied 191 crashes, excluding 85 and finding 37 collisions with driver hands on the steering wheel before impact.
  • 🚨 Among crashes involving emergency vehicles, only two drivers received alerts within 5 minutes of the crash, implying compliance with driver engagement strategy.
  • 💡 Engineering Analysis permits NHTSA to evaluate Autopilot and Tesla systems’ impact on safety by potentially undermining driver supervision.
  • 📷 NHTSA sought data on Tesla’s “Vision-only” approach, reliant on cameras alone, in early July.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is nearing the completion of its investigation into Tesla Autopilot’s involvement in collisions with roadside emergency vehicles. Following the launch of a thorough probe and subsequent engineering analysis, NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson stated in an interview with Reuters that the agency is close to reaching a resolution and will soon unveil the detailed outcomes of the investigation.

Carlson also emphasized the importance of driver attentiveness when using advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like Autopilot.

“It’s really important that drivers pay attention. It’s also really important that driver monitoring systems take into account that humans over-trust technology,” she said.


In August 2021, The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) announced it would open a Preliminary Investigation of the SAE Level 2 ADAS System that Tesla has, which is more commonly known as Autopilot. The investigation would examine 2014-2021 Tesla Model S, X, 3, and Y vehicles.

In June 2022, the agency formally upgraded the preliminary evaluation to an investigation or engineering analysis. It was aimed at assessing the collisions by analyzing Autopilot capabilities on 830,000 vehicles.

The Preliminary Evaluation reviewed 191 crashes involving patterns “not limited to the first responder scenes that prompted the investigation opening.”

85 crashes were ruled out, and 43 of the remaining 106 provided detailed car log data. 37 of those showed the driver’s hands were on the steering wheel in the last seconds before a collision occurred.

The NTHSA said:

“Of those crashes involving first responder or roadside maintenance vehicles for which car log data existed, under the driver engagement strategy alerts were presented to only two of the drivers within 5 minutes of the crash. This suggests that drivers may be compliant with the driver engagement strategy as designed.”

With the upgrade to an Engineering Analysis, the NHTSA was granted the ability to perform vehicle evaluations and explore Autopilot and other Tesla systems and how they “may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks by undermining the effectiveness of the driver’s supervision.”

In early July, the NHTSA asked for updated information regarding the vehicles, seeking the number of vehicles equipped with Tesla’s “Vision-only” approach, which relies only on cameras instead of cameras and radar.

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