Investigators to determine likely cause of fatal Tesla crash

Investigators to determine likely cause of fatal Tesla crash

"Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed and the system gave far too much leeway to the driver to divert his attention", said Robert Sumwalt, the NTSB chairman. The system is expected be labeled a contributing factor in the crash because it allowed drivers to avoid steering or watching the road for lengthy periods. Tesla had no immediate comment on the NTSB report. The NTSB similarly found that the system operated as intended - but also cited the driver's inattentiveness, a result of his excess reliance on the Autopilot tech, was a cause in the death. Brown relied too much on automation, and demonstrated a "lack of understanding of system limitations", the agency said.

In the May 7, 2016 crash that killed 40-year-old Joshua Brown in Florida, the NTSB determined Autopilot worked as designed before Brown's Model S plowed into a truck. Tesla's system design was declared a contributing factor.

In January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it found no evidence of defects in the crash. The NTSB suggested to any maker of semi-autonomous vehicles to prevent the use of the technology on roads where the vehicles aren't suited to travel without human control of the vehicle. Still, the way it intuits driver involvement - primarily through steering interactions - is ineffective at ensuring driver engagement, NTSB said. The system could not reliably detect cross traffic and "did little to constrain the use of autopilot to roadways for which it was designed", the board said.

NTSB's report says, "The NTSB also determined the operational design of the Tesla's vehicle automation permitted the auto driver's overreliance on the automation, noting its design allowed prolonged disengagement from the driving task and enabled the driver to use it in ways inconsistent with manufacturer guidance and warnings".

The board recommended that regulators find better ways to measure driver attentiveness, such as using scanners that focus on where drivers are looking.

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Tesla's Autopilot, introduced in October 2015, was the focus of intense scrutiny when it was disclosed in July 2016 that Brown was using the technology when he crashed into a semitruck and died.

The National Transportation Safety Board is taking up the crash Tuesday, the same day that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is to unveil safety guidelines for automakers seeking to market self-driving cars. "There was a small window of time when neither Joshua nor the Tesla features noticed the truck making the left-hand turn in front of the auto". "That is simply not the case", the family's statement said. Investigators later found that Brown's hands were on the steering wheel for 25 seconds of the 37 minutes the vehicle was in Autopilot, and the car's operating system warned Brown seven times to place his hands back on the wheel before hitting the truck.

NTSB recommended that NHTSA require automakers to have safeguards to prevent the misuse of semi-autonomous vehicle features.

"In this crash, Tesla's system worked as designed, but it was created to perform limited tasks in a limited range of environments", he said.

NHTSA and NTSB said Brown did not apply the brakes and his last action was to set the cruise control at 74mph, less than two minutes before the crash - above the 65mph speed limit.

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