NTSB updates on fatal Model X crash

NTSB updates on fatal Model X crash

A fatal accident involving a Tesla Model X on Autopilot came under investigation by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in March. At this point, the NTSB has yet to determine a probable cause of the crash and is continuing to investigate the accident. The NTSB report confirms that, but does not speculate on how that affected the severity of the crash.

"At 3 seconds prior to the crash and up to the time of impact with the crash attenuator, the Tesla's speed increased from 62 to 70.8 miles per hour, with no precrash braking or evasive steering movement detected", reads the NTSB report.

The report said the Tesla vehicle's driver, a 38-year-old man, did not have his hands on the steering wheel in the six seconds before the auto slammed into a safety barrier called a crash attenuator, which separated the highway's carpool lane from an off-ramp. About eight seconds before the crash, the Tesla was traveling behind another vehicle that was traveling 65 miles per hour, which likely would have caused Autopilot to keep the Tesla at a slower pace.

The blog says Autopilot does not prevent all crashes but makes them less likely.

Huang was using Tesla's Autopilot system continuously for almost 19 minutes prior to the crash. Four seconds before the crash it was no longer following the lead vehicle, the NTSB said.

During the 60 seconds prior to the crash, the driver's hands were detected on the steering wheel on three separate occasions, for a total of 34 seconds; for the last 6 seconds prior to the crash, the vehicle did not detect the driver's hands on the steering wheel.

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In a shareholders' meeting this week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk didn't directly answer questions about the safety of its Autopilot system, but said that a significant revision would be pushed to cars next week. Tesla has defended its iterative approach, arguing that its features, in conjunction with attentive humans, are already providing for significantly safer cars. The attenuator had been damaged 11 days earlier in a previous accident and hadn't been repaired, according to NTSB.

Two other vehicles subsequently struck the Tesla, resulting in an additional injury.

Last month, a Model S traveling in Southern California hit an unoccupied parked police vehicle while reportedly using Autopilot, prompting some calls that Tesla should stop marketing its cars as "self-driving". "The focus is on what led to this crash and how do we prevent it from happening again".

It serves as a tragic reminder that drivers need to always pay attention when using Autopilot and be ready to take control at all time. In that incident, the driver of the Model S did not touch the steering wheel in the 80 seconds before the crash.

Tesla's owner's manual warns drivers that the system may not detect stationary objects when traveling at higher speeds. "It is the driver's responsibility to drive safely and remain in control of the vehicle at all times", it says. "Never depend on Automatic Emergency Braking to avoid or reduce the impact of a collision".

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