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Tesla's semi-autonomous system contributed to deadly crash

13 September, 2017, 01:49 | Author: Jeff Stephens
  • This image provided by the National Transportation Safety Board shows the damage to the left front of the Tesla involved in

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that aspects of Tesla's Autopilot played a role in a fatal crash involving Joshua Brown, 40, in May 2016.

In its findings on Tuesday, the NTSB said the self-driving system's "operational design" was a contributing factor to the 2016 crash because it allows drivers to avoid steering or watching the road for lengthy periods of time that were "inconsistent" with warnings from Tesla. It also cited a January report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that found no safety issues with Tesla's Autopilot system, and a 40% decline in crashes after automatic steering was added to Tesla cars. NTSB went on to criticize too-few safeguards for Tesla's Autopilot system, which can center the auto in its lane and accelerate and brake on its own. Autopilot was also not created to be used on the type of road where the crash occurred, the agency said.

Brown was traveling on a divided highway near Gainesville, Florida, using the Tesla's automated driving systems when he was killed.

NTSB directed its recommendations to automakers generally, rather than just Tesla, saying the oversight is an industrywide problem. "The result was a collision that, frankly, should have never happened".

The NTSB issued 13 findings related to the crash, including a pair of citations over Brown's driving patterns. "Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed".

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Tesla said in June 2016 that Autopilot "is not flawless and still requires the driver to remain alert".

"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", a Tesla spokesperson said in an email to The Verge following the safety agency's meeting.

The NTSB said Green's vehicle performed as designed, but could be improved to deter drivers from diverting their attention away from the road.

In the aftermath of the crash, Tesla put more stringent limits on hands-off driving, disabling the autopilot feature if drivers repeatedly ignore the audible and dashboard warnings.

At the time of the crash, Brown was traveling at 74 miles (118 km) per hour in an area where the speed limit was 65 mph, when he collided with the semitrailer making a left turn. Newer versions of Tesla's Autopilot stop the vehicle after the third such infraction, but drivers can go for minutes at a time without steering or quickly stop the warning, according to NTSB. The only way that it could monitor the driver was by sensing whether or not he was touching the steering wheel, which the NTSB called "a poor surrogate for monitored driving engagement".

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The Model S is a level 2 on a self-driving scale of 0 to 5.

'Nobody wants tragedy to touch their family, but expecting to identify all limitations of an emerging technology and expecting perfection is not feasible either, ' the statement said.

Traditional automakers plan to gradually introduce features until the day arrives when they've produced a fully autonomous vehicle. "That is simply not the case", said the statement from the family, breaking its silence on the crash.

Brown's family says he loved his Model S and understood Autopilot's limitations. "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 auto".

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