NTSB 2019 Crash Report Deja Vu- Tesla Model 3 While On Autopilot Drove Straight Into Truck Killing Occupant
Tesla's Autopilot system has once again driven one of its premium/performance electric vehicles straight into the side of a huge, slow-moving object killing the occupant inside. This is just the latest in a string of accidents that have occurred while Tesla's driver assist system has been engaged. Every model that Tesla presently sells, the Model S, Model X, and Model 3 has been involved in an accident in which the conditions were ideal (highway, daytime, dry) and the Autopilot system killed the occupant when it drove the vehicle either into a fixed object, or into a very large, highly visible slowly moving object.
The crash is almost identical in nature to the first Autopilot crash in 2016 that killed the Tesla occupant. In that crash, a Model S operating on Autopilot struck a truck broadside killing the occupant. In the latest crash, the Model 3 also struck a truck broadside, killing the occupant.
Related Story (2017): NTSB Panel Findings Include Tesla Autopilot Lack of Safeguards In Deadly Crash
The similarities don't end there. The NTSB found in both cases that the occupant of the Tesla had set the vehicle to travel above the speed limit, though not by much. In the latest fatality, the Tesla Model was traveling at 68 MPH in an area with a speed limit of 55 MPH. In both crashes, NTSB determined that neither vehicle braked or made any evasive maneuvers.
The NTSB report from the first crash determined, "The Tesla’s automated vehicle control system was not designed to, and could not, identify the truck crossing the Tesla’s path or recognize the impending crash. Therefore, the system did not slow the car, the forward collision warning system did not provide an alert, and the automatic emergency braking did not activate." Last year, Torque News spoke directly with an MIT researcher working with Tesla on an Autopilot study. That expert told Torque News that among those with the best knowledge of autopilot, the system's problems with static object detection are well known. The exchange was captured on video and can be viewed here.
In addition to Tesla's Model S and Model 3 killing its occupants while operating on Autopilot, a Model X minivan/crossover also drive directly into a static object, a highway median, killing its occupant. That occupant had reportedly told Tesla prior to the accident that the Autopilot seemed to be steering toward static objects.
In addition to the fatal crashes, there have been multiple other very serious crashes of Tesla vehicles operating on autopilot. These include multiple crashes into the backs of firetrucks and police vehicles with warning lights flashing. These first responder vehicles were aiding other motorists when struck from behind by Teslas. Thus far, no first responders have yet to be killed in such a crash.
You can read the full text of the latest NTSB report here.
Top of page image courtesy of NTSB.
Model S Image credits shown on photo.
Model X image courtesy of Youtube.