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U.S. Regulators Expected to Close Tesla Autopilot Death Investigation

January 19, 2017

A Tesla Motors Inc. Software UpdateA Tesla Motors Inc. Software Update
A driver rides hands-free in a Tesla Model S vehicle equipped with Autopilot hardware and software in New York, U.S. on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. Christopher Goodney — Bloomberg via Getty Images

U.S. regulators are expected on Thursday to close a six-month-old investigation into the death of a man whose Tesla collided with a truck while he was using its semi-autonomous driving system and not seek a vehicle recall, according to a source briefed on the matter.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not find evidence of a defect that would have required a safety recall of the cars, said the source, who declined to be identified because the decision has not yet been made public.

Tesla (TSLA) in September unveiled improvements to its Autopilot semi-autonomous software, adding new limits on hands-off driving and other features that its chief executive officer said likely would have prevented a fatality.

Tesla’s Autopilot, introduced in October 2015, has been the focus of intense scrutiny since it was revealed in July that Joshua Brown, a Tesla Model S driver, was killed while using the technology in a May 7 collision with a truck in Florida.

Videos posted by Tesla drivers on YouTube showed close calls on the road with Autopilot.

NHTSA said Thursday it will hold a briefing to update reporters on the status of the investigation.

In July, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which is also probing the crash, said its preliminary findings showed Brown’s Model S was traveling at 74 miles per hour in a 65-mph zone when it struck a semi-truck near Williston, Florida in clear, dry weather.

Tesla introduced restrictions on Autopilot after concerns arose that the system lulled users into a false sense of security through its “hands-off” driving capability. The updated system temporarily prevents drivers from using the system if they do not respond to audible warnings to take back control of the car.