This may be a setback for driverless cars.
Safety regulators in the United States are investigating a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S that was using an “Autopilot” feature, Tesla Motors announced in a blog post Thursday.
The company said the crash took place under “extremely rare circumstances,” and that it was fatal because of where the Model S hit the trailer. It added that Autopilot is disabled by default and that a driver must explicitly acknowledge its experimental technology before using it.
The Model S will also tell drivers to keep their hands on the wheel; it alerts drivers and eventually slows down if they release their grip. Of course, even an instant of distraction can be deadly on the road…
The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may become a setback for the growing number of tech and car companies investing heavily in autonomous driving technology. Regulators scrambled last year to write new rules for self-driving cars after Tesla announced hasty plans to release its limited Autopilot feature. But by then, the company had already sent ripples through the auto industry. In January, at the Consumer Electronics Show — more or less the Detroit Auto Show of tech — it seemed nearly every major car company unveiled some kind of autonomous feature. The first death in a self-driving car could stoke fears over the technology and temper the industry’s growth. …(more)