Autopilot Was Engaged During Fatal Tesla Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report confirms Autopilot had been engaged by the driver 10 seconds before the crash occurred.
Autopilot Was Engaged During Fatal Tesla Crash
Image credit: via PC Mag

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Senior Editor
2 min read
This story originally appeared on PCMag

On March 1, a Tesla Model 3 crashed into a semitrailer in Delray Beach, Florida, which sheared off the vehicle's roof and proved fatal for the driver. A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday confirms Autopilot was engaged when the crash occurred.

As Reuters reports, the NTSB concluded in its report that Autopilot had been engaged by the driver roughly 10 seconds before the crash happened. However, the driver's hands were not detected on the wheel for eight of those seconds leading up to the crash. It's also key to point out that the Model 3 was traveling at 68mph on a highway with a 55mph speed limit.

Tesla has pointed out that before this crash occurred the driver engaged Autopilot and then, "immediately removed his hands from the wheel. Autopilot had not been used at any other time during that drive." This suggests that over the course of 10 seconds and while traveling at speed, the driver had engaged driver assistance but then chose to stop being in control of the car.

For now, Autopilot is only advertised as an advanced driver-assistance system offering lane centering, automatic lane changing, adaptive cruise control, self-parking, and summoning from a garage. It requires "active driver supervision" as stated on Tesla's website and does not make the vehicle autonomous, although a self-driving upgrade is promised eventually.

The NTSB is tasked with putting forward safety recommendations, however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also investigating the crash and intends to "share any findings upon conclusion of its investigation." The NHTSA holds the power to recall vehicles if "a defect poses an unreasonable safety risk." Ultimately the NHTSA needs to decide if Autopilot is defective in its current form.

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