A Tesla Model 3 has crashed with its semi-automated Autopilot still on, according to a report from the US National Transport and Safety Board.
On March 1st 2019, fifty year old Jeremy Banner was driving in Palm Beach County Florida when he crashed into a truck towing a trailer. The roof of the Tesla was sheared off in the accident and the driver was killed. The other driver did not sustain any injuries.
According to the NTSB report, the Autopilot system had been turned on 10 seconds prior to the crash. From less than 8 seconds before the crash to the time of impact, the Tesla did not detect Jeremy’s hands on the steering wheel. The driver did not appear to have his hands on the steering wheel and neither he nor the Autopilot took any evasive action.
Tesla said it was the only time during the journey that Autopilot had been activated. They said they were deeply saddened by the accident and their thoughts were with everyone affected by the tragedy.
Tesla said its drivers have logged more than one billion miles with Autopilot engaged. Their data shows that when used properly by attentive drivers who are ready to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without the assistance.
The firm does not recommend taking your hands off the wheel when using the vehicle’s Autopilot feature.
Last year Tesla introduced an improved version of what some Tesla owners refer to as “Autopilot Nag” reminders. When a car is travelling at a speed above 45 mph, it issues a
“Hold Steering Wheel” alert after one minute if there isn’t a car in front of the Autopilot to mimic. If there is a car in front to mimic, it sends an alert after 3 minutes.
At the time, Tesla CEO Elon Musk described the balance they had to maintain between keeping Autopilot safe and useful. He said they couldn’t make the system too annoying as people would not use it and it would affect their safety. They also couldn’t allow people to get too complacent or their safety would be in jeopardy.
David Friedman, acting head of the NHTSA and current vice president of Advocacy for Consumer Reports, says he was surprised his former agency didn’t seek an Autopilot recall after the Delray Beach crash. He says the Tesla system cannot literally see the broad side of an 18-wheeler on the highway. Mr Friedman says Tesla has been using humans as guinea pigs for too long. Mr Friedman argues that there are multiple car systems out on the roads right now that take over some level of steering and speed control, but there’s only one that we keep hearing about where people are dying or getting into crashes.
On 23rd March 2019, a Tesla Model X crashed into a roadside barrier and the car caught fire while on Autopilot. The driver died in the fire.