When the fatal car crash involving a Tesla Model S sedan made headlines last fall, we posted about the accident and predicted that government authorities would classify the crash as being caused by driver error rather than an issue with the “Autopilot” system.
Our prediction turned out to be correct. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was still investigating the incident when we first posted about it, but on January 19, NHTSA closed its preliminary evaluation, which found that driver error was responsible.
Still, the performance of Automated Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS, is an area of intense regulatory interest, and it was therefore not surprising to see NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigation deploy a special crash investigations team to reconstruct the accident.
Several news reports have characterized NHTSA as having “exonerated” or “cleared” Tesla of any wrongdoing in connection with the crash. Officially, NHTSA merely closed the investigation, noting that it reached no conclusion about whether a defect existed and retained its right to reopen the investigation later.
That said, NHTSA was clearly satisfied with the performance of Tesla’s ADAS system during the crash, which allowed the agency to close its investigation.