NTSB releases preliminary report on fatal Model X crash

Dwayne Harmon
June 8, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is confirming a Tesla vehicle was on autopilot during a deadly crash in March.

A preliminary report was made available by the National Transportation Safety Board detailing the moments before and after the March crash near Mountain View, California.

Then, at four seconds before the collision, the Tesla was no longer trailing another vehicle, according to the report.

No pre-crash braking or evasive steering movement was detected, according to NTSB's summary of performance data recorded by the vehicle. The Model X sustained major damage, causing the front end to separate from the rest of the auto. As the NTSB notes, eight seconds prior to the crash the Tesla was following a lead vehicle and traveling at around 65 miles per hour (104 km/h).

Previous to the impact, the Tesla was tracking the vehicle in front of it in the carpool at 65 miles-per-hour eight seconds before the crash.

During that time, he engaged the autopilot system four times, including one continuous period of almost 19 minutes.

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The NTSB report also indicates that not only did the driver not have his hands on the steering wheel in the final six seconds before impact, but there was "no precrash braking or evasive steering movement detected".

As the vehicle approached an area where two lanes diverged and became separated by a highway barrier, the vehicle moved to the left and drove on a path that would lead it directly into the barrier's crash attenuator - which is created to limit the impact from collisions - which had been damaged in another collision less than two weeks earlier. The NTSB said the crash remains under investigation and that it could make changes to its preliminary report as it does more research on the matter.

In the report released Thursday, the NTSB said the SUV was operating with traffic-aware cruise control and autosteer lane-keeping assistance engaged at the time of the crash. Tesla, however, previously said it has no record of Huang complaining about Autopilot. A spokeswoman referred to a company blog saying that a Tesla with Autopilot is far safer than vehicles without it. But once the autopilot mode sensed that vehicle no longer was in front of the auto, the Tesla began accelerating, and continued speeding up until impact near the exit to State Highway 85. "The focus is on what led to this crash and how do we prevent it from happening again".

Following CEO Elon Musk's announcement that the company should meet its Model 3 production goal of 5,000 cars per week this month (as well as a handful of other updates at the annual meeting), Tesla's stock price spiked 9.74% on Wednesday.

In April, a Tesla Model S that struck a firetruck in Utah while in Autopilot mode may also have sped up before impact. Drivers are expected to keep their hands on the wheel and engaged at all times when the feature is activated.

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