Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Finance | By Cynthia Curry

Investigators say Tesla Autopilot sped up before fatal Model X crash

Investigators say Tesla Autopilot sped up before fatal Model X crash

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report on the deadly Tesla Model X crash from late March.

In April, the NTSB removed Tesla as a party to its investigation of Huang's crash after the automaker made public statements. Three seconds before the crash, the Model X sped up from 62 to 70.8 miles per hour before hitting the barrier at roughly 71 miles per hour.

In March, a Tesla Model X with Autopilot engaged collided with a highway barrier, killing driver Walter Huang.

In context: Tesla has drawn quite a bit of heat lately due to numerous crashes that have occurred with Autopilot engaged. The report notes that the driver's hands were not on the steering wheel during the six seconds preceding the crash.

The Model X that Huang was driving was following another vehicle that was traveling 65 miles per hour for several seconds before the crash, but four seconds before impact that auto moved out of the way.

A Tesla spokesperson declined to comment on the NTSB report, and referred to a March 28 company blog post on the matter in which Tesla said, "Autopilot does not prevent all accidents - such a standard would be impossible - but it makes them much less likely to occur". The Autopilot's cruise control system, which is created to match the speed of a slower vehicle ahead of it, was set at 120 km/h.

The driver's hands were detected on the steering wheel for a total of 34 seconds, on three separate occasions, in the 60 seconds before impact.

Once the company said that the Autopilot system was switched on in the Mountain View crash, the safety board broadened the investigation to include the vehicle's automation.

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The NTSB findings indicate that Autopilot steered the vehicle towards the crash attenuator and accelerated. The attenuator had been damaged 11 days earlier in a previous accident and hadn't been repaired, according to NTSB.

In one of the disputed statements, Tesla said "the crash happened on a clear day with several hundred feet of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road, despite the vehicle providing multiple warnings to do so".

NTSB spokesman Christopher O'Neil told the AP Thursday that, among other factors, investigators are trying to determine how the car's camera, radar and ultrasonic sensors were working and what they were tracking.

Tesla's system may have a problem spotting or stopping for stationary objects.

Last month, police in Utah said a Tesla in Autopilot mode crashed into a parked fire truck. "The focus is on what led to this crash and how do we prevent it from happening again". The firetruck was unoccupied and no injuries were claimed by anyone at the crash scene, authorities said.

Investigators said that the Model X didn't attempt to brake or steer clear of the crash.

"It is the driver's responsibility to drive safely and remain in control of the vehicle at all times", the manual says.

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