A Tesla Model S was traveling at 74 mph in Autopilot mode during the fatal crash in Florida, according to a preliminary federal investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report released Tuesday draws no conclusion about the cause of the May 7 crash that killed Tesla test driver Joshua Brown, 40. The Model S was going 9 mph above the posted speed limit when it hit a tractor-trailer turning left and crossing into the car’s path.
The Autopilot’s sensors and camera did not recognize the truck and apply the brakes, so the car drove under the trailer. The NTSB report said that after the Tesla Model S passed under the trailer, it continued for almost 100 yards before striking a utility pole.
The report draws no conclusion about the cause of the Florida crash that killed Tesla driver Joshua Brown, 40. The Autopilot system takes control of braking and steering in certain circumstances. Automakers may be concerned that even though Autopilot is less sophisticated than fully autonomous systems coming out in the future, the fatal crash could dampen interest in the coming generation of self-driving cars.
NTSB doesn’t usually investigate car crashes when a single person dies, but it has launched a full investigation of the crash to scrutinize the emerging technology. The full report from NTSB is expected to take months to complete.
Tesla issued a statement following the NTSB report. “Neither autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied,” Tesla said.
Tesla said drivers should keep their hands on the steering wheel while autopilot is engaged and emphasized that it is “new technology and still in the public beta phase before it can be enabled.”
“The system also makes frequent checks to ensure that the driver’s hands remain on the wheel and provides visual and audible alerts if hands-on is not detected,” Tesla said.