Tesla Autopilot investigation closed after feds find 13 fatal crashes related to misuse

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed a long-standing investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system after reviewing hundreds of crashes involving its misuse, including 13 that were fatal.

At the same time, NHTSA is opening a new investigation to evaluate whether the Autopilot recall fix that Tesla implemented in December is effective enough.

NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation said in documents released Friday that it completed “an extensive body of work” which turned up evidence that “Tesla’s weak driver engagement system was not appropriate for Autopilot’s permissive operating capabilities.”

“This mismatch resulted in a critical safety gap between drivers’ expectations of [Autopilot’s] operating capabilities and the system’s true capabilities,” the agency wrote. “This gap led to foreseeable misuse and avoidable crashes.”

The closing of the initial probe, which began in 2021, marks an end of one of the most visible efforts by the government to scrutinize Tesla’s Autopilot software. The Department of Justice is also scrutinizing the company’s claims about the technology, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles has accused Tesla of falsely advertising the capabilities of Autopilot and the more-advanced Full Self-Driving beta software. Tesla, meanwhile, is now going “balls to the wall for autonomy,” according to CEO Elon Musk.

This story is developing…

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