The federal government will continue efforts to speed up the development of self-driving cars, even after a fatal car accident involving a self-driving Tesla in May, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Chief Mark Rosekind.
Car industry insiders have questioned whether Tesla vehicles and other self-driving cars give drivers a false sense of security. However, Rosekind says that the NHTSA is confident that self-driving technology has the potential to reduce 94 percent of car crashes that happen because of human error. Moreover, accidents with self-driving cars will provide valuable data that regulators can share with car manufacturers to make these vehicles even safer.
The agency is still working on safety guidelines for self-driving cars to govern how these vehicles should react to various road conditions. The NHTSA was planning to release those guidelines this month, but they may not be released until later this summer, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The announcement comes as the NHTSA is in the midst of a formal investigation into a May crash involving a Tesla Model S that was being driven by an autopilot system. The accident happened in Florida when the Tesla crashed into an 18-wheeler, which was making a left turn on a divided highway. The car traveled under the 18-wheeler, which cut through the windshield and ripped off the top of the car.
NHTSA investigators have also been collecting information about a non-fatal Tesla crash that happened earlier this month. Investigators are trying to determine if the car's autopilot feature was active at the time of the accident.
The driver told police that the autopilot was engaged when his Tesla Model X SUV hit a guard rail, traveled across the road and hit a median before rolling over. Tesla has stated that it did not receive logs from the car which would confirm or deny whether the autopilot system was engaged.
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