Third fatal Tesla Autopilot crash renews questions about system

Mae Love
May 18, 2019

The crash, which is now under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), raises questions about the effectiveness of Tesla's Autopilot feature, which uses cameras, long-range radar and computers to detect objects in front of the cars to avoid collisions.

Thursday's report from the NTSB is an early, bare-bones recounting of its understanding of the basic facts of the crash. "The driver engaged the Autopilot about 10 seconds before the collision".

"Neither the preliminary data nor the videos indicate that the driver or the ADAS executed evasive maneuvers", investigators wrote. Jeremy Beren Banner, 50, was killed.

Tesla has since phased in a requirement that the driver touch the steering wheel and apply a small amount of torque to it every 20-25 seconds.

The vehicle was traveling at about 68 miles per hour before it collided with the truck as it crossed the highway, tearing off the car's roof and killing Banner.

Neither Brown nor the auto braked for a tractor-trailer, which had turned left in front of the Tesla and was crossing its path.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also investigating the Delray Beach and said Thursday it is "carefully evaluating all available data and will share any findings upon conclusion of its investigation".

The Tesla continued southbound on 441 for about 1,600 feet (500m) after impact. In that instance, a semi-truck was turning onto a Florida highway, and the driver of the Tesla struck the side of the trailer and died. A final, conclusive report will be released at a later date.

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Following the NTSB's report, Tesla stated that "We are deeply saddened by this accident and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy".

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.

In that fatal collision, the NTSB found that the design of Tesla Autopilot system was partially responsible for the crash and issued two recommendations to the company and other manufacturers to improve the safety of partially autonomous driving tools.

The roof of the vehicle was sheared off in the accident and the driver was killed.

Years of research show that it's nearly impossible for drivers to always leap into action in an emergency if their car is automating the main driving tasks, such as steering and speed control, said Kelly Funkhouser, program manager for automated and connected vehicles at the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center.

On 23 March 2019, a Tesla Model X crashed into a roadside barrier and caught fire while on Autopilot, which also resulted in the death of the driver.

Tesla further noted that its drivers have logged more than a billion miles with Autopilot engaged, and that drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those without the systems' assistance.

Now, at first glance, it's easy to blame the driver because the vehicle's data tells us that his hands weren't where they should have been.

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