U.S. Ends Probe of Tesla Fatal Crash Without Seeking Recall

Tesla Motors Inc. won't face a recall or fine as a result of a fatal crash involving its Autopilot system, but U.S. safety regulators are warning auto manufacturers and drivers not to treat semiautonomous cars as if they were fully self-driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday it found that the system had no safety defects at the time of the May 7 crash in Florida, and that it was primarily designed to prevent rear-end collisions rather than other crash scenarios.

Bryan Thomas, the agency's chief spokesman, said automated driving systems still require a driver's full attention. He warned that automakers need to keep tabs on how drivers use the technology and should design vehicles "with the inattentive driver in mind."

The probe began June 28, nearly two months after a driver using Autopilot in a 2015 Tesla Model S died when it failed to spot a tractor-trailer crossing the car's path on a highway in Williston, Florida, near Gainesville.

Tesla's Autopilot uses cameras, radar and computers to detect objects and automatically brake if the car is about to hit something. It also can steer the car to keep it centered in its lane. The company has said that before Autopilot can be used, drivers must acknowledge that it's an "assist feature" that requires both hands on the wheel at all times and that drivers must be ready to take control.

The agency's criticism is likely to influence how automakers market semi-autonomous systems. Just about every company has or is working on similar systems as they move rapidly toward self-driving cars.

The investigation "helps clarify that cars are still supposed to be driven by attentive people, and if people behind the wheel aren't attentive, it's not the technology's fault," said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book. That will help avoid the stigma...

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