Tesla's 'Autopilot' shares blame in 2016 fatal crash, United States investigators say

Marco Green
September 12, 2017

The investigative staff of US National Transportation Safety Board, in its first probe of the first autonomous driving systems being introduced by carmakers, has recommended that Tesla's Autopilot system be declared a contributing factor in the crash as it allowed the driver to go for long periods without steering or apparently even looking at the road, Bloomberg reported citing a person briefed on the findings.

The safety board also found the driver, 40-year-old Joshua Brown, relied too heavily on the technology and didn't understand its limitations, and that Tesla could have done more to prevent Autopilot from being misused.

The accident was the first known fatal crash involving a vehicle using an automated driver assistance system, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

"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. "The result was a collision that frankly should never have happened".

Since the accident, Tesla has updated its Autopilot system to shut off if a driver fails to respond after three warnings.

Tesla had told Model S owners the automated systems should only be used on limited-access highways, which are primarily interstates.

French Steelworkers Protest Labor LawsAP
French Steelworkers Protest Labor LawsAP

The vehicle was set to cruise control at 74 miles per hour, above the speed limit, moments before the crash.

But Brown and the truck driver bore some fault, as well, in the Florida crash, the agency said.

Tesla said in a statement after the NTSB report that its Autopilot system "significantly increases safety, as NHTSA has found that it reduces accident rates by 40 per cent".

The company said it would "continue to be extremely clear with current and potential customers that Autopilot is not a fully self-driving technology and drivers need to remain attentive at all times".

In the end, the safety board determined the probable cause of the May 2016 crash was shared among the truck driver, Brown and Autopilot.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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