By Ellijah Nicholson-Messmer
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that Tesla Model S, the semi-autonomous driving system played a major role in the May 2016 fatal car accident.
The driver in the fatal crash, Joshua Brown, 40, was on a state highway in Williston, Florida when a tractor-trailer crossed the road in front of his car, the sensors in which failed to distinguish the white truck from the bright sky behind it, according to The New York Times.
Brown was reported as traveling at 74 miles an hour according to the NTSB’s data obtained from the vehicle tracking system. The NTSB report states that he had ignored several warnings to keep his hands on the steering wheel and that he had at least seven seconds to see the truck, but neither Brown nor the car stopped in time.
The NTSB’s conclusion to its yearlong investigation into the incident comes after the US House of representatives unanimously approved legislation which will give the federal government regulatory powers over self-driving
cars. If signed into law, the “Self-Drive Act” would require the Transportation Department to develop, within one-year, regulations for self-driving cars and identify areas where additional safety standards may be needed such as sensors and software that prevents drivers from ignoring the road, according to USA Today.
The Safety Board stated in their findings that the autopilot system of the Tesla had performed as intended, but it lacked sufficient safeguards in maintaining the driver’s awareness of the road.
Since the 2016 crash, Tesla has rolled out updates for its autopilot system which includes better recognition of objects and more warnings for drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, with the system disabling itself after three warnings until the driver stops and restarts the car, The New York Times reported.
Republican Congressman Fred Upton said, “The future of the automobile is here and this bill will give the automotive industry the tools it needs to completely revolutionize how we will get around for decades to come.”
The Mercury News Editorial Board criticized aspects of the bill dealing with consumer privacy and accident reporting regulations.
“Although Section 12 of the bill requires that companies outline to customers what information will be collected and shared from their vehicles, a provision allows companies to bypass this regulation as long as the information is encrypted, even if it is later decrypted,” The Mercury News reported.
If regulatory powers are left to the states, The Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group said, “Cutting states out of setting their own regulations is inappropriate since federal regulators haven’t set their own standards for self-driving cars,” USA Today reported.