Investigators say Tesla Autopilot sped up before fatal Model X crash

Tesla Model X

Above Tesla Model XImage Credit Michel Curi

The report mostly summarizes information already known about the accident, confirming that Autopilot was engaged at the time and the driver's hands were not detected on the wheel in the six seconds prior to the crash.

Bystanders managed to get the driver out of the vehicle before it was engulfed in flames, and he was taken to hospital where he died from his injuries. A second later, the SUV began a "left steering movement" while still following the other vehicle.

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

The preliminary NTSB report released today does not assign blame for the crash, and officials say it may take a year or longer to determine the probable cause. Indeed, Tesla could use exterior cameras to send images to small screens inside the vehicle, exactly like Audi's e-tron, a future direct rival for the Model X. Three seconds before the crash, the Model X increased its speed from 62 miles per hour (100 km/h) to 70.8 miles per hour (114 km/h).

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The blog post states: "The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken".

Last month, a Model S traveling in Southern California hit an unoccupied parked police vehicle while reportedly using Autopilot, prompting some calls that Tesla should stop marketing its cars as "self-driving".

In an update after the accident, Tesla highlighted that the absence of a crash attenuator - a highway safety device created to absorb the impact of a collision - was already damaged when the Model X collided with the concrete barrier.

The NTSB said in a preliminary report the 38-year-old driver, who died in hospital shortly after the crash, had been given two visual alerts and one auditory alert to place his hands on the steering wheel during the trip. Tesla vehicles also have an automatic emergency braking feature that is created to slow a vehicle to avoid or lessen the impact of a collision.

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"Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents - such a standard would be impossible - but it makes them much less likely to occur", the company wrote in the post.

In context: Tesla has drawn quite a bit of heat lately due to numerous crashes that have occurred with Autopilot engaged. The firetruck was unoccupied and no injuries were claimed by anyone at the crash scene, authorities said. "It is the driver's responsibility to drive safely and remain in control of the vehicle at all times", it says.

On March 28, 5 days after the accident, the Model X's battery pack reignited.

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