An automated Tesla Model X passenger vehicle sped up before hitting a damaged crash attenuator, a preliminary official report says
AN ELECTRIC-POWERED TESLA MODEL
X passenger vehicle sped up before hitting a damaged crash attenuator as it approached a state highway interchange, a preliminary report from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says.
The driver was using the vehicle’s “Autopilot” traffic-aware cruise control and lane-keeping assistance technology when they crashed into the attenuator – also known as a ‘crash cushion’ – on March 23 this year. The Tesla hit the attenuator as the vehicle was exiting the interchange, rotating it counterclockwise and causing the front portion of the car to be separated.
Two other vehicles crashed into the Tesla following the accident, which the NTSB says sparked a fire after the crashes breached the Telsa’s 400-volt lithium-ion high-voltage battery. While bystanders were able to remove the driver from the vehicle before it was engulfed in flames, he later died in hospital from his injuries.
According to the NTSB report, the driver was following a lead vehicle up to four seconds before the crash occurred, though it noted the driver did not put his hands on the steering wheel of the vehicle for six seconds prior to the crash.
“At three seconds prior to the crash and up to the time of impact with the crash attenuator, the Tesla’s speed increased from 62 to 70.8mph, with no pre-crash braking or evasive steering movement detected,” the report says.
The NTSB also noted that the attenuator – or ‘crash cushion’ – had been damaged less than two weeks prior in an un-related single-vehicle collision involving a Toyota Prius. In blog posts released by Tesla following the accident in March, the manufacturer says the condition of the attenuator was “the reason the crash was so severe”.
“We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash,” Tesla says.