Now, the federal probe into the fatal crash has come to a close, with NHTSA posting a final report on the matter. NHTSA says that there will be no safety recall as a result of the incident, as the agency "did not identify any defects."
In other words, Autopilot worked within its limits. Throughout the investigation, Tesla has maintained that Autopilot is not meant to be a substitute for hands-on driving, with warnings in the car's owner's manual that the system can't react to every obstacle. That hasn't kept drivers from relying too heavily on the automated functions. Last year, Tesla added safety updates to Autopilot, such as a lockout feature that disables Autosteer after a driver ignores messages to keep their hands on the wheel. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says such features would probably have prevented a fatality.
Tesla has released a short statement regarding the final report from NHTSA. "At Tesla, the safety of our customers comes first, and we appreciate the thoroughness of NHTSA's report and its conclusion," it reads. Additionally, Elon Musk tweeted a "highlight" from the report:
Report highlight: "The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation."— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 19, 2017
While Autopilot has its critics, including consumer watchdog groups repeatedly calling for Tesla to scrap the system (or at least change the name), many owners say – and often produce videos as evidence – that it has prevented accidents and even saved lives on the road. That is, after all, what Tesla says Autopilot is all about.