Tesla must fix 'flaws' in Autopilot after fatal crash: US consumer group

Marco Green
June 12, 2018

The Tesla had been following a lead vehicle and travelling at the speed limit (of 65mph) eight seconds before the crash, the report said, taking advantage of the "Autopilot" system that allows drivers to follow the behaviour of a lead vehicle while maintaining a fixed distance from it.

The video poster says a friend filmed the video earlier this week near Fremont, California where Tesla is based. But the company has also heavily promoted its cars' supercharged ability to fend for itself: The Tesla website promises "Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Cars", which it says offer "a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver". The blog says Autopilot does not prevent all crashes but makes them less likely.

The accident on USA 101 killed the driver, an Apple software engineer.

In the report released Thursday, the NTSB said the SUV was operating with traffic-aware cruise control and autosteer lane-keeping assistance engaged at the time of the crash.

Huang also had the Tesla's cruise control set at 75 miles per hour, but the auto was traveling slower than that because of another vehicle in front of it. The SUV also was equipped with automatic emergency braking.

The NTSB report also indicates that not only did the driver not have his hands on the steering wheel in the final six seconds before impact, but there was "no precrash braking or evasive steering movement detected".

He died in hospital soon after the crash.

At 4 seconds, the Model X no longer was following that lead vehicle. The agency also says it accelerated from 62 miles per hour to 71 miles per hour "with no pre-crash braking or evasive steering movement detected".

When the SUV moved to the left, it entered a "gore area" that is marked with white lines and divides the freeway lanes from an exit ramp. Then it hit the barrier, which was equipped with an accordion-like device to absorb impact in a crash.

In blog posts released by Tesla following the accident in March, the manufacturer said the condition of the attenuator was "the reason the crash was so severe". The NTSB will now examine the cause of the crash, a process that is expected to take up to a year. Among other factors, investigators are trying to determine how the car's camera, radar and ultrasonic sensors were working and what they were tracking.

A Tesla spokesperson said in an email, "We take safety very seriously and are investigating this incident".

Two other vehicles crashed into the Tesla following the accident, which the NTSB said sparked a fire after the crashes breached the Telsa's 400-volt lithium-ion high-voltage battery.

In January, a Tesla Model S sedan that may have been using Autopilot hit a parked firetruck on Interstate 405 near Los Angeles.

Federal investigators found that Autopilot was on and had been used multiple times before the crash.

Musk tweeted that Tesla's Version 9, a software update that will automatically install in Tesla cars, would "begin to enable full self-driving features" and entirely fix certain issues with "Autopilot", the name for the company's package of semi-driverless features such as advanced cruise control. "It is the driver's responsibility to drive safely and remain in control of the vehicle at all times", it says.

In its report, the NTSB noted that the attenuator - or "crash cushion" - had been damaged less than two weeks prior in an un-related single-vehicle collision involving a Toyota Prius.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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