Tesla says crashed ve­hi­cle had been on au­topi­lot prior to ac­ci­dent

Arab News - - BUSINESS -

38-year-old Tesla driver died at a nearby hos­pi­tal shortly af­ter the crash.

The Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the crash ear­lier this week, did not im­me­di­ately com­ment late Fri­day. The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board (NTSB) is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the fa­tal crash.

Au­topi­lot al­lows driv­ers to take their hands off the wheel for ex­tended pe­ri­ods un­der cer­tain con­di­tions. Tesla re­quires users to agree to keep their hands on the wheel “at all times” be­fore they can use au­topi­lot, but users rou­tinely tout the fact they can use the sys­tem to drive hands-free.

The NTSB faulted Tesla in a prior fa­tal au­topi­lot crash.

In Septem­ber, NTSB Chair­man Robert Sumwalt said op­er­a­tional lim­i­ta­tions in the Tesla Model S played a ma­jor role in a May 2016 crash that killed a driver us­ing au­topi­lot.

That death — the first fa­tal­ity in a Tesla ve­hi­cle op­er­at­ing in Au­topi­lot mode — raised ques­tions about the safety of sys­tems that can per­form driv­ing tasks for long stretches with lit­tle or no hu­man in­ter­ven­tion, but which can­not com­pletely re­place hu­man driv­ers.

The NTSB said Tesla could have taken fur­ther steps to pre­vent the sys­tem’s mis­use, and faulted the driver for not pay­ing at­ten­tion and for “over­re­liance on ve­hi­cle au­to­ma­tion.”

In Jan­uary, NHTSA and NTSB launched in­ves­ti­ga­tions into a Tesla ve­hi­cle, ap­par­ently trav­el­ing in semi­au­tonomous mode, that struck a fire truck in Cal­i­for­nia. Nei­ther agency nor Tesla has of­fered any up­date.

The gov­ern­ment probes raise the risk for Tesla and au­tomak­ers at a time when the in­dus­try is seek­ing fed­eral leg­is­la­tion that would ease de­ploy­ment of self driv­ing cars.

The crash comes soon af­ter an Uber ve­hi­cle in Ari­zona in self­driv­ing mode struck and killed a pedes­trian in the first death linked to an au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle.

Tesla said late Fri­day that “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.”

Tesla said that in the US “there is one au­to­mo­tive fa­tal­ity ev­ery 86 mil­lion miles across all ve­hi­cles from all man­u­fac­tur­ers. For Tesla, there is one fa­tal­ity, in­clud­ing known pedes­trian fa­tal­i­ties, ev­ery 320 mil­lion miles in ve­hi­cles equipped with Au­topi­lot hard­ware.”

Tesla in Septem­ber 2016 un­veiled im­prove­ments to Au­topi­lot, adding new lim­its on hands-off driv­ing.

On Thurs­day, Tesla said it was re­call­ing 123,000 Model S sedans built be­fore April 2016 in or­der to re­place bolts in the power steer­ing com­po­nent that can be­gin to cor­rode af­ter con­tact in cold tem­per­a­tures with road salt. No ac­ci­dents or in­juries were re­ported.

Res­cue work­ers at­tend the scene where a Tesla elec­tric SUV crashed into a bar­rier on US High­way 101 in Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia, last week. (Reuters)

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