Tesla's Autopilot Was Engaged During Another Fatal Crash


A semi tractor-trailer was crossing those lanes to turn northbound, but slowed before the turn, obstructing the lane ahead of the electric auto, which struck the left side of the semi's trailer and then continued traveling for 1,600 feet (nearly a third of a mile) from the accident site. Yet rather than pushing for perfection, the paper argues that the system's imperfections may be what keeps drivers attentive. The NTSB gathered that during the accident, neither the Model 3's ADAS nor the driver, attempted to alter course before the fatal accident.

The accident, which involved the Tesla Model 3 driving into and then under a semi's trailer, saw the Tesla's roof sheared completely off the vehicle and its occupant instantly killed.

Critics of the company's self-driving software contend that Tesla's means of assessing whether drivers have their hands on the steering wheel - as advised when Autopilot is active - is inadequate because it only measures torque - force applied by the driver to turn the wheel.

A Tesla spokesperson told ZDNet in response to the NTSB report: "Shortly following the accident, we informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board that the vehicle's logs showed that Autopilot was first engaged by the driver just 10 seconds prior to the accident, and then the driver immediately removed his hands from the wheel". The crash remains under investigation.

The Verge reports that this is the fourth fatal crash involving a Tesla vehicle on Autopilot. The auto continued traveling on the highway for about 1,600 feet before it stopped.

According to NTSB investigators, Tesla's advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), Autopilot, was engaged about 10 seconds before impact. The crash sheared off the roof as the Tesla traveled under the semitrailer.

The NTSB said in 2017 that Tesla lacked proper safeguards allowing the driver "to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed and the system gave far too much leeway to the driver to divert his attention".

After that crash, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company made changes in its system so radar would play more of a role in detecting objects.

"Either Autopilot can't see the broad side of an 18-wheeler, or it can't react safely to it", said Friedman, a vice president for advocacy at Consumer Reports. Note that this is not enough information to say the driver definitely took his hands off the wheel; it only means the auto did not detect any torque from the driver's hands. "That kind of stands out", Friedman said. Whether speed was a contributing factor to this incident is unclear.

NHTSA can demand a recall if it believes a defect poses an unreasonable safety risk, while the NTSB makes safety recommendations. Note that the video was released back when the crash initially occurred. The first was on May 7, 2016, also in Florida, and the second was on March 23, 2018, in Mountain View, California.