Investigators Release Findings on Tesla Autopilot Crash

Investigators Release Findings on Tesla Autopilot Crash

Investigators are meeting to determine the likely cause of a crash previous year that killed a man using the semiautonomous driving systems of his Tesla Model S sedan.

Tesla Inc.'s design of its Autopilot system contributed to a 2016 fatal crash in Florida, accident investigators concluded as they recommended all automakers prevent autonomous driving systems from being used on roads for which they are not designed. The system is expected be labeled a contributing factor in the crash because it allowed drivers to avoid steering or watching the road for lengthy periods. The new report again stated that the Tesla being driven by Mr. Joshua Brown was speeding at the time of the accident with the speed set at 75 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone and that Mr. NTSB went on to criticize too-few safeguards for Tesla's Autopilot system, which can center the auto in its lane and accelerate and brake on its own. Brown relied too much on automation, and demonstrated a "lack of understanding of system limitations", the agency said.

Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old OH man, was killed near Williston, Florida, when his Model S collided with a truck while it was engaged in the Autopilot mode.

The family noted Tesla's continued improvements to Autopilot and said it "takes solace and pride in the fact that our son is making such a positive impact on future highway safety".

The NTSB report was issued on the same day that U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao revealed the federal government's latest voluntary guidelines for autonomous technology, which includes a section on driver monitoring and the transfer of control from vehicle to operator when a system determines that human interaction is required.

The agency said the Autopilot system operated as designed but did not do enough to ensure drivers paid adequate attention.

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"A driver could have difficulties interpreting which roads it might be appropriate [to use Autopilot]", Ensar Becic, an NTSB human performance investigator, said during the hearing. There was no evidence indicating the truck driver was distracted by cell phone use. The system could not reliably detect cross traffic and "did little to constrain the use of autopilot to roadways for which it was designed", the board said.

NTSB cited driver error - including the truck driver's failure to yield to the Model S - as a factor in the crash, including overreliance on self-driving features. But the US National Transportation Safety Board explicitly shared some of the blame with Tesla in its conclusion of the investigation on September 12. "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 vehicle".

The statement also praised Tesla for improving its Autopilot software after the accident, changes it said were a direct result of the crash. "Nobody wants tragedy to touch their family, but expecting to identify all limitations of an emerging technology and expecting perfection is not feasible either", the statement said.

NHTSA and NTSB said Brown did not apply the brakes and his last action was to set the cruise control at 74mph, less than two minutes before the crash - above the 65mph speed limit.

NTSB recommended that NHTSA require automakers to have safeguards to prevent the misuse of semi-autonomous vehicle features.

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