Tesla Model 3 that crashed in Florida had Autopilot active, NTSB finds

Andrew Cummings
May 18, 2019

"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", the company said in a statement.

The report is only two pages long so there's not a lot in the way of detail, but the basic narrative is this: the driver engaged Autopilot 10 seconds before the crash, and the vehicle stopped detecting his hands on the wheel eight seconds before the crash.

On March 1, the Model 3 was traveling southbound on US 441-a divided highway-in Delray Beach, Florida.

The Tesla Model 3 was traveling at 68 miles per hour (110 km/h) in a 55 miles per hour zone when it struck the truck's trailer and continued under it, shearing the Tesla's roof off and killing its 50 year-old driver, Jeremy Banner. "Neither the preliminary data nor the videos indicate that the driver or the ADAS [advanced driver assistance system] executed evasive maneuvers", stated the NTSB. 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.

NTSB investigators are also probing how the electric Tesla's batteries behave after accidents following several fires.

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

Tesla's spokesperson said drivers of the automaker's cars have driven more than a billion miles with Autopilot engaged.

The auto drove beneath the trailer, killing the driver, in a crash that is strikingly similar to one that happened on the other side of Florida in 2016 that also involved use of Autopilot. As a result, Tesla shorted the time Autopilot issues a warning alert when the driver's hands are off the wheel.

An advertisement promotes Tesla Autopilot at a showroom of US auto manufacturer Tesla in Zurich, Switzerland March 28, 2018.

The Drive's own Alex Roy has delivered a detailed rebuke in the past on the Model 3's Autopilot interface as to it not being as intuitive as the Model S's and that "Tesla can not solve the Autopilot UI problem fast enough". GM's Super Cruise driver assist system only operates on divided highways with no median turn lanes, he said.

The driver was found to have used Autopilot for 37 minutes but only had his hands on the wheel for 25 seconds.

"Tesla has for too always been using human drivers as guinea pigs", he said. "This is tragically what happens".

NHTSA said Thursday that its investigation is continuing and its findings will be made public when it's completed. "They're literally showing how not to do it by rushing technology out".

The NTSB says that their report is only preliminary and that the crash is still under investigation. Rather, the systems are created to detect vehicles they are following to prevent rear-end collisions.

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