Although the semi-autonomous driving system’s warning to the driver of the Tesla Model S sedan that was involved in a fatal crash last year to keep his hands on the steering wheel, he never did so. The report was released by the US government on Monday.
According to Reuters Technology News, Joshua Brown, a former Navy SEAL who crashed near Williston in Florida when his Model S was involved in a collision with a trailer truck, was on autopilot when he was killed. The confirmation came from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which released findings of the May 2016 accident in a 500-page report. A spokeswoman from Tesla, Keely Sulprizo, however, declined to give any comment about the report because the company had warned drivers against abdicating their responsibility because of the autopilot.
There were previous false allegations that Brown was watching a movie when the crash happened. The misleading report has now been proved by an email about the findings of NTSB. The family lawyer called the initial report to be “unequivocally false,” and he added that while still looking into the report, the family was not contemplating any legal action against Tesla.
Questions about the ability of auto systems to perform driving tasks for long periods without the intervention of human driving skills have been raised. It appears that autopilot devices cannot completely replace human intelligence and decisions on the road. It is interesting that for about 35 minutes when Brown should have kept his hands on the steering, he did so for just 25 seconds, according to the NTSB report.
A “Hands Required Detected” warning and the sounding of a chime happened six times in a one to three seconds intervals. In September, Tesla added innovations to the Autopilot and more features on the hands-off driving which its chief executive officer believed could have prevented the deadly crash. In the updated system, the drivers are prevented from using the device for a while if they do not heed the warning to take back control of the car. The NTSB can only give recommendations for safety but cannot order for car recalls.
In the aftermath of the accident and the death of Brown, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also added its voice in January by saying that it had found no indications of defects. It confirmed that Brown failed to apply the brakes but his last action less than two minutes to the crash was to set the control of the cruise speed to 119 km or 74 miles per hour. That was 65 miles per hour over the prescribed speed limit.
According to the spokesperson of a Florida Highway Patrol, the driver of the truck was charged with violating a right of way traffic requirement, and will be due for a court hearing in a few days’ time. And because the Tesla Model S records the driving data using a proprietary system, the NTSB will depend on Tesla to use the manufacturer’s software to provide the engineering units of the data. At least seven seconds before the crash, the truck should have been visible to the driver, according to NHTSA.
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