The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report regarding the fatal Tesla Model S crash which occurred when Autopilot was activated.
According to the report, Joshua Brown was traveling at 74 mph (119 km/h) in a 65 mph (104 km/h) zone on May 7th, 2016 shortly before his 2015 Tesla Model S 70D collided with a 53-foot semitrailer which was making a left turn.
Investigators were able to recover approximately 510 MB of data from the Model S following the collision and that information confirmed Brown was using the car’s Autosteer lane keeping assistance and Traffic-Aware Cruise Control at the time of the accident.
According to the report, “For the vast majority of the trip, the Autopilot Hands On State remained at Hands Required Not Detected. Seven times during the course of the trip, the Autopilot Hands On State transitioned to Visual Warning. During six of these times, the Autopilot Hands On State transitioned further to Chime 1 before briefly transitioning to Hand Required Detected for 1 to 3 seconds.”
This suggests Brown was too reliant on the Autopilot system and was slow to respond to multiple warnings to keep his hands on the steering wheel. The system apparently failed to notice the semi even though Brown should have if he was paying attention. As the report notes, the driver took “no braking, steering, or other actions to avoid the collision.”
The accident, while tragic, will hopefully remind drivers that they need to be aware of their surrounding and keep their hands on the steering wheel regardless of how technologically advanced their vehicle is.