Tesla must fix ‘flaws’ in Autopilot after fatal crash

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently concluded that the driver of a 2017 Model X, Walter Huang, had Autopilot activated when the vehicle smashed into a crash attenuator and concrete barrier.

The triangular gore area is marked by white lines to show the divide between the exit ramp and the thru lanes on the highway, but the Tesla sped through the gore area and slammed head-on into a previously damaged crash attenuator at the end of a concrete median barrier, at a speed of about 71 miles per hour. Ubergizmo argued that it's unlikely that Tesla's cars can suddenly be transformed into fully autonomous vehicles and that term could simply be a fancy marketing term for new features as opposed to its literal meaning.

Autopilot was engaged for the last 18 minutes, 55 seconds, and in that time the vehicle gave the driver two visual alerts and one auditory alert to put his hands on the steering wheel; all were more than 15 minutes prior to the crash. Passersby pulled Huang from the wreckage moments before the vehicle burst into flames, but he later died from his injuries at a hospital.

Buyers of Tesla's sedan or SUV, including the $140,000 Model X P100D, can pay an extra $5,000 for "Enhanced Autopilot", a package of still-experimental features that the company says could include "on-ramp to off-ramp" autonomous freeway driving. The vehicle did not brake or attempt evasive steering, and the driver's hands were not detected on the steering wheel in the seconds before impact, according to the report.

The NTSB report said the vehicle had sped up from 62 miles (99 km) per hour (mph) to almost 71 mph (114 km/h) in the three seconds before the crash.

A Tesla SUV that crashed last spring while on autopilot accelerated just before crashing into a California freeway barrier and killing its driver, federal investigators have determined.

According to the Associated Press, Tesla says its vehicles and systems are not to blame; the drivers are. But the company has also heavily promoted its cars' supercharged ability to fend for itself: The Tesla website promises "Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Cars", which it says offer "a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver".

Two other vehicles became involved in the crash, and the Tesla's battery also caught fire. The SUV also was equipped with automatic emergency braking.

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. The driver of the vehicle told police she thought the Tesla's automatic emergency braking system would detect traffic and stop before the auto hit another vehicle.

Shortly after the March 23 crash that killed Huang, Tesla released a statement that said "the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road". The NTSB says it now will examine the cause of the crash.

"The impact rotated the Tesla counter clockwise and caused a separation of the front portion of the vehicle", the report said. "The focus is on what led to this crash and how do we prevent it from happening again".

The investigations are far from complete, but enough details are emerging about several high-profile crashes involving Tesla and other company advanced driver-assist systems to draw important lessons about the limits of the current technology.

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