Tesla Model 3: Autopilot engaged during fatal crash

Daniel Fowler
May 20, 2019

In May 2016, a Tesla Model S driver was killed near Williston, Florida, while Autopilot was engaged, when he slammed into a tractor trailer that also sheared off the vehicle roof. Two seconds after that, the system registered that the driver's hands weren't on the wheel and they didn't register as being back on the wheel before the crash.

The Model 3 was going 68 miles per hour when it hit the trailer on USA 441, and the speed limit was 55 mph, the report said. It is at least the fourth fatal crash involving a Tesla vehicle in Autopilot mode.

The crash happened around 6:15 a.m. on March 1 in Delray Beach, Florida.

The second was on March 23, 2018 in Mountain View, California, involving a Tesla Model X; a lawsuit filed against Tesla by the family of the victim of that crash alleging Autopilot defects was announced earlier this month.

Tesla defended its "Autopilot" system after a preliminary report said the mechanism was engaged in a fatal crash in March. Tesla had said it determined the driver's hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision.

The Model 3 owner's manual tells drivers that the vehicle "detects your hands by recognizing light resistance as the steering wheel turns, or from you manually turning the steering wheel very lightly (without enough force to retake control)". The investigation will also examine the driver of the combination vehicle, the motor carrier, highway factors, and survival factors. The Model 3 continued to travel on the highway at approximately 1,600 feet before it completely stopped.

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Among seven recommendations it made from the investigation was that "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". The truck driver was trying to cross the highway's southbound lanes and turn left into the northbound lanes.

"Tesla drivers have logged more than one billion miles with Autopilot engaged, and our data shows that, when used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without assistance", Tesla said in a statement.

Tesla said it's looking into a fire in Shanghai after a video showing one of its vehicles bursting into flames went viral on Chinese social media.

NHTSA said Thursday that its investigation is continuing and its findings will be made public when it's completed.

"Show me the data", Friedman said. The victim's father, Gao Jubin, who had planned to hand over his logistics business to his son, claims that Tesla Auto-pilot was responsible for the crash. "They're literally showing how not to do it by rushing technology out". "This system can't dependably navigate common road situations on its own and fails to keep the driver engaged exactly when needed most". The agency said that Tesla told Model S owners that Autopilot should be used only on limited-access highways, primarily interstates.

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