Federal investigators have determined that the driver of a Tesla Model 3 sedan engaged the vehicle’s semi-autonomous autopilot system seconds before he was killed in a collision with a tractor-trailer. A detailed article on the ongoing investigation is available here.
The collision, which occurred on U.S. Highway 441 in Delray Beach, Florida, took the life of a 50-year-old man. He was killed when his vehicle drove beneath an 18-wheeler at 68 miles per hour. The roof of the Tesla was sheared off in the impact.
About the Accident
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a preliminary report which indicates that the driver engaged the autopilot system approximately ten seconds before the collision. Data and video recovered from the vehicle show the driver had removed his hands from the steering wheel for at least eight seconds before impact.
There is no evidence that either the driver or the autopilot system attempted to brake or swerve in order to avoid the truck.
The circumstances of the crash bear a remarkable similarity to an earlier collision between a Tesla and a tractor-trailer in 2016. In this accident, another Tesla vehicle drove under a trailer while autopilot was active. Neither the autopilot nor the driver acted to avoid the truck. That incident, which occurred near Gainesville, Florida, killed a 40-year-old Ohio man.
An additional news source indicates that there is nothing in the preliminary NTSB report to suggest the driver received, dismissed, or ignored any alerts or collision warnings from the vehicle prior to impact.
Tesla’s Autopilot System
Tesla’s semi-autonomous autopilot system relies on long-range radar, computers, and a series of cameras to identify objects and avoid collisions. According to the manufacturer, the system can also allow a vehicle to change lanes or stay within its own lane, as well as navigate interchanges on the highway. The company maintains drivers must pay constant attention and be ready to retake control, as the system is intended only to assist.
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