NTSB Says Tesla Driver Ignored Warnings Just Before Fatal Crash

A federal agency report found that a driver who was killed in his Tesla when it went under a tractor trailer last year failed to respond to repeated warnings from the car’s Autopilot system.

The 500-page report from the National Transportation Safety Board was released Monday disclosing findings from the May 2016 crash of Model S owner Joshua Brown on a Florida highway. The former Navy SEAL had collided with the truck without braking suggesting he never knew he was in danger before his roof was ripped off from the underside of the truck’s trailer.

Warnings included seven separate visual alerts that said “Hands Required Not Detected.” The NTSB found that during a 37-minute period, Brown was supposed to have his hands on the wheel but only did so for 25 seconds.

During six occasions, a chime sounded before issuing another warning.

The report also found that Brown had not been watching a video just prior to the crash. Media reports had asserted Brown had been distracted by watching a movie.

Attorney Jack Landskroner, who has been representing the Brown family, said the allegation raised by media whether Brown had been watching a movie was “unequivocally false,” and that the NTSB report should now lat that question to rest.

Landskroner said the family has otherwise not taken any legal action against Tesla and was still reviewing the NTSB report.

Tesla declined to comment on the report, but made statements last year that Autopilot was not intended to be a fully autonomous system driving the car. Drivers need to be responsive and aware while using the semi-autonomous system.

The automaker has been making enhancements to Autopilot since the second-generation version was released in January. One improvement has been that Tesla vehicles now have eight cameras that provide 360-degree visibility and 820 feet of range instead of the first version having just one camera.

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Tesla in September unveiled improvements in Autopilot, adding new limits on hands-off driving and other features that its chief executive officer said likely would have prevented the crash death. The updated system temporarily prevents drivers from using the system if they do not respond to audible warnings to take back control of the car.

In January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its own study findings that found no evidence of defects in the Autopilot system.

Florida Highway Patrol had charged the truck driver involved in the crash with a right of way traffic violation. The truck driver has a scheduled court hearing on Wednesday.



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