It’s been a good year for Elon Musk, so far. First, SpaceX, the private aerospace company launched by Musk in 2012, saw the first successful flight and landing of its Falcon 9 rocket since September 2016, when a second stage rocket exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Last week, Tesla Motors—the automobile manufacturer co-founded by Musk—was cleared of blame by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for an accident involving a Tesla Model S in autopilot mode. It was determined that a recall of the vehicle would not be necessary.
No Defect in the Vehicle or Its Braking System
In May 2016, the human driver of a 2015 Tesla Model S, Joshua Brown, was killed in an accident when a truck turned in front of his vehicle. The car failed to brake, passed under the truck and hit the trailer with the windshield. The vehicle, still in autonomous mode, then continued off the road, through two fences and stopped upon hitting a power pole, according to an NHTSA report.
The NHTSA ruled that there was no defect of the autopilot function or the autonomous braking system. Overall, Tesla’s crash rate for its vehicles has fallen by 38 percent since the autosteer function became available.
Meanwhile, Tesla continues to make changes to improve the safety of its vehicles. Since the accident, the company added a function that turns off Autopilot mode if the software detects the driver isn’t paying attention.
Good News for the Industry
Not only is this good news for Tesla, the NHTSA’s decision has positive implications for the autonomous vehicle industry as a whole, clearing vehicle manufacturers of liability for human error, and encouraging manufacturers to push the envelope as it pertains to the development and enhancement of self-driving technologies.