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

Darnell Taylor
May 18, 2019

In a preliminary report on the March 1 crash, the NTSB said that initial data and video from the Tesla show that the driver turned on Autopilot about 10 seconds before the crash on a divided highway with turn lanes in the median. "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".

Jeremy Beren Banner, 50, was killed on March 1 when his Tesla crashed into a semitrailer which was turning onto a highway in Delray Beach, Florida. The vehicle was traveling around 68 miles per hour at the time, 13 miles per hour above the speed limit in the area.

Whether the driver's hands were on the steering wheel or not is irrelevant at this point, because the data shows that neither he nor the vehicle made evasive maneuvers.

The crash, which is now under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), raises questions about the effectiveness of Tesla's Autopilot feature, which uses cameras, long-range radar and computers to detect objects in front of the cars to avoid collisions.

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

It also said the way Autopilot monitored and responded to driver interaction with the wheel "was not an effective method of ensuring driver engagement".

The accident, which involved the Tesla Model 3 driving into and then under a semi's trailer, saw the Tesla's roof sheared completely off the auto and its occupant instantly killed.

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During the first quarter of 2019, Tesla says that it registered one accident for every 2.87 million miles driven in which Autopilot was engaged.

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

Tesla also said it's saddened by the crash and that drivers have traveled more than 1 billion miles while using autopilot. This isn't the first documented crash that involved active use of Autopilot, and while it's easy to point fingers at the system or at Tesla, these incidents are much more complicated.

'Tesla has for too always been using human drivers as guinea pigs.

"Two crashes with such striking similarities should be a wake up call to NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] to open a defect investigation", added Cathy Chase, president for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The Delray Beach crash casts doubt on Musk's statement that Tesla will have fully self-driving vehicles on the roads sometime next year. The NTSB used video from a nearby surveillance camera showing the collision and the video devices that Teslas use to help them steer and perform other functions.

The NTSB preliminary report doesn't make any conclusions about the cause of the accident, as the agency will continue to gather information on the incident, potentially issuing safety recommendations at a later date.

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