The driver of a Tesla who was killed in a crash that drew worldwide attention previous year was too reliant on the car's "Autopilot" system when he plowed into the side of a tractor-trailer at more than 70 miles per hour, federal investigators concluded Tuesday.
Tesla owner Joshua Brown was using the semi-autonomous system on a Florida highway when both he and the vehicle failed to notice a tractor-trailer turning left across the road. But the board also recommended that automakers incorporate safeguards that keep drivers' attention engaged and that limit the use of automated systems to the conditions for which they were designed. The cameras on Brown's sedan failed to distinguish the white side of the semitrailer from the bright sky, Tesla said at the time.
We've reached out to Tesla regarding the NTSB's findings and will update this post if we receive a response.
Sumwalt said the result was a collision "that should never have happened".
"System safeguards were lacking", NTSB Chairman Robert Zumwalt said today in statement.
"And the system gave too much leeway to the driver to divert his attention to something other than driving".
"We appreciate the NTSB's analysis of last year's tragic accident and we will evaluate their recommendations as we continue to evolve our technology", the automaker said in an emailed statement to Cars.com.
Manufacturers should also develop systems for ensuring operators remain attentive to the vehicle's performance when using semi-autonomous driving systems other than detecting the pressure of hands on the steering wheeling, the NTSB recommended. "The probability of having an accident is 50% lower if you have Autopilot on", said Musk at a 2016 energy conference in Oslo, Norway. Brown was a technology geek and enthusiastic fan of the Model S who posted videos about the vehicle and spoke to gatherings at Tesla stores. NHTSA said Brown did not apply the brakes and his last action was to set the cruise control at 74 miles per hour (119 kph), less than two minutes before the crash - above the 65-mph speed limit. Investigators said they do not know if the truck driver saw the approaching Tesla, as the driver refused requests to be interviewed.
The NTSB also found that relying on sensors that determine whether a driver's hands are on a steering wheel isn't an effective method of determining whether they're paying attention.
The Model S is a level 2 on a self-driving scale of 0 to 5. "There was a small window of time when neither Joshua nor the Tesla features noticed the truck making the left-hand turn in front of the vehicle".
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 percent". The NTSB suggested to any maker of semi-autonomous vehicles to prevent the use of the technology on roads where the vehicles aren't suited to travel without human control of the vehicle.
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