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Tesla Autopilot Accidents; Questions Raised in Report Issued by the NHTSA

May 27, 2019

Report from the National Transportation Safety Board Released on Tesla Autopilot Accidents; Questions Raised

According to an online article at, a recent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Report on the March 1st Tesla accident evinces that the Tesla autopilot feather was active when the vehicle collided into and went under a truck that was going across a Florida highway.  This mirrored a crash that occurred in May of 2016 in which a male Tesla driver from Florida was killed.*

The report did not provide many details however, and it appears that the truck was going across the roadway and was exiting a driveway to go left onto the northerly lanes while the Tesla was going southbound on United States Highway 441.  This suggests that the truck driver may be at fault however, if the coast was not clear for him or her to cross. If not, the driver of the Tesla was not supervising the autopilot feature and may have failed to intervene, which demonstrates a disregard for how Tesla instructs drivers how to use the autopilot feature.

Even if the Tesla operator was at fault, the autopilot feature, arguably, should have detected the truck crossing in front of it, which appears could have been the case.  No braking or preventative actions were pursued to prevent the collision. The autopilot feature was engaged just ten seconds before the accident.

According to the NTSB report, it states that "[f]rom 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." However, Tesla’s autopilot system is only able to detect when a person’s hands are on the wheel if the driver uses torque force to turn the wheel.  It is possible for a driver to have his or her hands on the wheel, and even apply firm pressure, without the autopilot feature noticing. But, the question remains as to why the driver did not brake or attempt to steer the vehicle away from the oncoming truck.

The above suggests that further research is necessary to determine whether the autopilot feature needs to be adjusted to prevent accidents like the May 2016 accident that resulted in the death of a Tesla driver.

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Category: Accident News

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