A Tesla Model X owner had the vehicle’s Autopilot system turned on when the all-electric SUV crashed on a California highway, Tesla confirmed on Friday while alleging that the driver who died in the crash missed key warnings to take control of the car.
Prior to the March 23 collision, Tesla said the Model X owner had Autopilot turned on with adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to a minimum. The driver, Walter Huang, had received “several visual and one audible hands-on warning” before the crash occurred. As the reports say Huang’s hands weren’t detected on the wheel six seconds prior to the collision, Tesla said. Huang later died in the crash.
“The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of an unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken,” Tesla responded in a blog post late Friday.
From the company said that they believe the accident was severe because the “crash attenuator,” a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had been already crushed in a prior accident without being replaced.
“We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash,” the company said.
The confirmation that Tesla’s Autopilot system was turned on at the time of the crash comes amid a troubling time for the self-driving car industry. This month, an Uber-owned self-driving car fatally struck a pedestrian, raising some significant questions about the safety of the automated driving technology. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) launched an investigation after the huge crash involving the Model X driver. An investigation like this will probably take few months to complete.
The Model X crash is already the third known fatality to occur when Autopilot was engaged. More than 2 years ago, at January 2016, 23-year-old Gao Yaning died while driving a Model S on a highway in China, and his family’s attorney told that Tesla’s own data confirmed Autopilot was engaged at the time. A half-year later, Joshua Brown died in an accident occurred in Florida after his Model S crashed into a truck. The NTSB said an over-reliance on Autopilot was the one thing to blame in that crash.
Tesla was quick to react and post updates on the Model X crash in recent days, saying late Friday that it has been “working as quickly as possible to establish the facts of last week’s accident.”
“Our hearts are with the family and friends who have been affected by this tragedy,” the company said.
The NTSB initially said that they couldn’t confirm if the Autopilot was engaged at the time the accident occurred and sent investigators to the scene earlier this week.
Many questions arise knowing that a confirmation was received that the Autopilot was on. These are tough times for an industry which currently is trying to extricate the way how to approach self-driving cars in wake of this month’s fatal Uber crash, known as the first to involve a pedestrian and an autonomous car.