Tesla Model 3 Florida Crash Found Engaged In Autopilot, NTSB Finds

A Model 3 Tesla vehicle navigates morning rush hour using the car's auto pilot feature in Los Angeles
A Model 3 Tesla vehicle navigates morning rush hour using the car's auto pilot feature in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 20, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)

The preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states that Tesla's Autopilot system was active at the time of a Model 3 crash in Delray Beach, Florida. Data showed that the driver of the vehicle, who died in the March 1st incident, activated Autopilot around 10 seconds before it crashed into a semi truck.

The driver, Jeremy Beren Banner, was killed in the crash. It is at least the fourth fatal crash involving a Tesla vehicle in Autopilot mode.

Data also showed that the Tesla Model 3 was traveling at 68 miles per hour when it hit the truck. The Model 3's speed was 13 mph above the speed limit, but the driver of the truck was uninjured.

The report states that the truck was crossing the highway from a side road when the Model 3 hit the side of the truck, leaved its roof sheared and killing the driver of the Tesla vehicle. The Model 3 continued to travel on the highway at approximately 1,600 feet before it completely stopped.

It is observed that the recent crash is eerily similar to the Gainesville, Florida crash in 2016 that also involved a Tesla car. That incident killed Joshua Brown, who was driving a Model S sedan when it hit a semitrailer truck along the highway. Brown was the first known fatality involving a semi-autonomous car.

Two previous crashes involving Tesla's Autopilot system also led to the deaths of Gao Yaning in Handan China in January 2016; and Wei Huang in Mountain View, California in March 2018.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a "lack of safeguards" contributed to the death of Brown in 2016. Today's report, meanwhile, is just preliminary, so the NTSB has not yet put out a word on who's to blame for the incident.

The NTSB stated, however, that none of the videos or data from the incident indicate the Autopilot or driver carried out evasive moves. The prelim report doesn't include information if the driver ignored warnings from the car's system, which was the case in some prior accidents.

Prior Autopilot-linked crashes had Tesla release an update in June that reminds drivers to hold the wheel, which according to the company is as often as every 15 seconds.

Tesla confirmed the events in a statement, saying they are "deeply saddened" by the accident. NTSB won't be releasing its final report in at least 12 months as investigations are still ongoing.

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