A Tesla Model X driver has been killed in California after the all-electric luxury SUV slammed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101.
The crash and subsequent fire occurred earlier in the week, involved two other cars, and killed 38-year-old Walter Wong, an Apple engineer, who was driving the Tesla. The electric automaker has now confirmed that Autopilot was enabled at the time of the crash, Reuters reports.
In a blog post, Tesla said: “Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum.” In the seconds leading up to the fatal impact, numerous visual and an audible hands-on warning instructed the driver to put their hands back on the steering wheel.
“The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken,” the blog post continued.
Tesla hasn’t said why Autopilot failed to detect the concrete divider.
Authorities start investigation
Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the fatal crash.
The first confirmed fatal crash to have occurred when Autopilot was introduced happened in mid-2016. Upon investigating that incident, the NTSB said that Tesla should have taken further steps to prevent the system’s misuse.
In the aforementioned blog post, Tesla admitted that Autopilot is not perfect, but asserts that it makes driving safer.
“Autopilot does not prevent all accidents – such a standard would be impossible – but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.”
This tragic incident comes less than two weeks after a Volvo XC90 operated by Uber, that was on autonomous mode, killed a woman cyclist in Arizona, which led to the company, as well as Toyota and Nvidia, halting their autonomous testing programs.
Wong, who was transferred into a hospital but succumbed to his injuries, was a father of two. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with his family…