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Feds say Autopilot was engaged in fatal Tesla vs. semi crash


Federal authorities have released the results of an investigation into a crash involving a Tesla Model 3 and a semi truck that cost the Tesla driver his life earlier this year.

On Thursday, May 16, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report that found that the Tesla’s Autopilot system was engaged before it crashed into the trailer of a turning semi truck during a March crash.

The crash happened around 6:15 a.m. on March 1 in Delray Beach, Florida. During the crash, a Tesla Model 3 driven by 50 year old Jeremy Banner was southbound on US 441 when it crashed into a semi truck that was driving east while making a left turn from an access road across southbound US 441 onto northbound US 441, which resulted in “the roof [of the Tesla] being sheared off as it passed underneath” the trailer. The Tesla continued driving for several blocks before it came to a stop after the crash.

Banner died at the scene. Florida-based truck driver Richard Keith Wood wasn’t hurt in the crash.

The NTSB report concluded that the Tesla’s Autopilot system was engaged just seconds before the crash occurred:

Preliminary data from the vehicle show that the Tesla’s Autopilot system—an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) that provides both longitudinal and lateral control over vehicle motion—was active at the time of the crash.1 The driver engaged the Autopilot about 10 seconds before the collision. From less than 8 seconds before the crash to the time of impact, the vehicle did not detect the driver’s hands on the steering wheel. Preliminary vehicle data show that the Tesla was traveling about 68 mph when it struck the semitrailer. Neither the preliminary data nor the videos indicate that the driver or the ADAS executed evasive maneuvers.

The NTSB says that their report is only preliminary and that the crash is still under investigation.

The Verge reports that this is the fourth fatal crash involving a Tesla vehicle on Autopilot.

The March 1 2019 crash is similar to a  fatalTesla vs. turning semi truck crash that happened in May of 2016 in Williston, Florida.

During this crash, a Tesla that was in Autopilot mode collided with the trailer of a truck that failed to yield while crossing a divided highway. Forty year old Tesla driver Joshua Brown died at the scene. The roof-less Tesla continued driving for about 500 yards after the collision.

Joshua Brown

Following the crash, initial reports indicated that the Tesla’s camera technology was unable to tell the difference between the white side of the turning semi trailer and the sky.

Tesla has maintained that the Autopilot system is designed only to assist drivers, not take over driving duties completely.


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