Musk: Tesla Has No Plans to Disable Autopilot

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the automaker has no plans of disabling the Autopilot system following the fatal May crash, but instead the company plans to redouble efforts to educate customers on how the system works.

Musk said that the company will be releasing an explanatory blog post that highlights how Autopilot works, and what drivers are expected to do after they activate it.

“A lot of people don’t understand what it is and how you turn it on,” Musk said.

Musk pushed hard to launch the Autopilot feature as soon as possible, because “we knew we had a system that on balance would save lives,” he said. Tesla’s system more actively steers the car than similar systems from other automakers, and the company has marketed it more aggressively.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the May 7 crash in Florida that killed 40-year-old Joshua Brown. He’d been using the Autopilot system in his Model S at the time of the crash.

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NHTSA on Tuesday disclosed a nine-page letter to Tesla requesting documents and details of additional crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot as part of its ongoing probe. The investigation is exploring emergency braking and forward-collision warning functions that allegedly didn’t respond as expected before the May 7 crash.

In the letter, NHTSA included a questionnaire seeking details on Autopilot’s design and engineering, and reports of crashes, deaths, injuries or other claims related to the technology. Tesla responses to some questions from the more recent information request are due July 29, while others are due Aug 26.

Tesla confirmed the company received the letter and said it is cooperating.

Since NHTSA disclosed the investigation in late June, there have been at least two crashes in which Tesla drivers say Autopilot was engaged. Most recently, a Tesla Model X driver told local authorities Autopilot was active when the vehicle crashed into railing wires along the side of Montana State Highway 2. It’s unclear if the driver had his hands on the wheel when the accident occurred, a state trooper said.

An earlier incident involved Albert Scaglione, of Farmington Hills, Mich., who was driving outside Pittsburgh on July 1. He recalls crashing his Model X into a guardrail on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. While Autopilot was turned on at the time, Scaglione said he has no reason to believe Autopilot had anything to do with the accident. Tesla said it hadn’t received data about the vehicle’s controls, possibly due to a damaged antenna.

Wall Street Journal