Autopilot sped up before fatal Tesla Model X crash

Source NTSB  S. Engleman

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report on the deadly Tesla Model X crash from late March.

The NTSB has now released its preliminary report of the accident. The NTSB said Huang's vehicle sped up from 62 miles per hour to 70.8 miles per hour in the last three seconds prior to the crash.

The NTSB's preliminary report on the crash of a Tesla Model X on U.S. Highway 101 in the bay area suburb of Mountain View, Calif., indicates that Huang had the vehicle in it's semi-autonomous autopilot mode for almost 19 minutes before the crash.

The report said that the Tesla did not try to brake or steer away from the highway barrier.

"The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe", Tesla's March blog post said.

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Huang, found belted in his seat after the crash, was removed by bystanders before being transported to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries.

The report also says that Autopilot was engaged four times during the 32-minute drive, including for the 18 minutes and 55 seconds before the crash.

The Tesla was no longer following a lead vehicle four seconds before the crash.

The auto went from 62 miles per hour to 70.8 miles per hour, then hit the highway barrier in California with such force that the front of the vehicle was ripped apart, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Huang's hands were detected on the wheel for just 34 seconds of the last minute before the crash, and his hands were not detected at all for the last six seconds before the crash, according to the report.

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In a shareholders' meeting this week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk didn't directly answer questions about the safety of its Autopilot system, but said that a significant revision would be pushed to cars next week.

The interior of a Tesla Model X 75D semi-autonomous electric vehicle is shown in January 2017. The attenuator had been damaged 11 days earlier in a previous accident and hadn't been repaired, according to NTSB. After hitting the attenuator, the Tesla hit two other cars. That has lead some technology developers to focus on fully driverless technology, which requires nothing from passengers.

It serves as a tragic reminder that drivers need to always pay attention when using Autopilot and be ready to take control at all time. Two other vehicles were damaged in the incident, with one driver suffering minor injuries. NTSB, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a regulatory agency that can seek recalls and fine automakers, are investigating that crash.

Tesla said earlier that "the reason this crash was so severe is because the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is created to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had been crushed in a prior accident without being replaced".

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