'System safeguards' lacking in Tesla crash on autopilot: NTSB

'System safeguards' lacking in Tesla crash on autopilot: NTSB

The chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday "operational limitations" in the Tesla Model S played a "major role" in a May 2016 crash that killed a driver using the vehicle's semi-autonomous "Autopilot" system. In a report set to be released in the next few days, the NTSB concludes that the accident was the fault of both drivers and has issued a series of recommendations to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), manufacturers of Level 2 automated driving systems, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers.

Federal investigators announced Tuesday that the design of Tesla's semi-autonomous system allowed the driver in a fatal 2016 crash with a semi-truck to rely too heavily on the car's automation. Still, the way it intuits driver involvement - primarily through steering interactions - is ineffective at ensuring driver engagement, NTSB said.

The report lists as one finding, "The Tesla's automated vehicle control system was not created to, and could not, identify the truck crossing the Tesla's path or recognize the impending crash". But it didn't incorporate protections against their use on other types of roads, the board found.

The automaker added that "we appreciate the NTSB's analysis of last year's tragic accident and we will evaluate their recommendations as we continue to evolve our technology". To the NHTSA, the report suggests it develop a way to verify that these sorts of automated systems have appropriate safeguards that limit their use with respect to their abilities and recommends a standard format for reporting automated system data that manufacturers can comply with.

"In this crash, Tesla's system worked as designed", NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said. At this point the facts are clear: Joshua Brown was overly reliant on Tesla's Autopilot function and interacted with the vehicle only seven times in 37 minutes-while traveling at 74mph.

The board recommended that regulators find better ways to measure driver attentiveness, such as using scanners that focus on where drivers are looking.

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Monitoring driver attention by measuring the driver's touching of the steering wheel "was a poor surrogate for monitored driving engagement", said the board.

The first fatal crash of an autonomous vehicle in the US, the accident claimed the life of the Tesla's driver, 40-year-old Joshua Brown, of Canton, Ohio. "We heard numerous times that the auto killed our son", said the statement issued by the law firm Landskroner Grieco Merriman. "That is simply not the case", the family's statement said. "There was a small window of time when neither Joshua nor the Tesla features noticed the truck making the left-hand turn in front of the auto".

"The probability of having an accident is 50% lower if you have Autopilot on", said Musk at a 2016 energy conference in Oslo, Norway.

Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was traveling on a divided highway near Gainesville, Florida, using the Tesla's automated driving systems when he was killed. "Change always comes with risks, and zero tolerance for deaths would totally stop innovation and improvements". Indeed, two minutes before the crash, vehicle data indicate Brown adjusted cruise-control speed, NTSB said.

Even though Brown's Model S warned him seven times during the 37 minutes before the crash that his hands weren't on the steering wheel, he was able to briefly touch the wheel and the system continued driving itself, according to the NTSB.

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