Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Tesla automated vehicle sped up before crash

Walter Huang, the 38-year old driver, was killed.

Tesla has not commented on the report, but emphasized in a March 30 blog post the safety potential of its Autopilot system and noted that the Model X "had about 5 seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken".

In its current iteration, Autopilot can keep a vehicle in its lane and adjust its speed based on surrounding traffic, among other features.

Huang also had the Tesla's cruise control set at 75 miles per hour, but the auto was traveling slower than that because of another vehicle in front of it.

A second later, the SUV began a "left steering movement" while still following the other vehicle.

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.

According to the report, "As the Tesla approached the paved gore area dividing the main travel lanes of US-101 from the SH-85 exit ramp, it moved to the left and entered the gore area". In the seconds leading up to the crash, the vehicle sped up and didn't brake or steer away from a crash attenuator.

The NTSB report notes some other significant details about the vehicle and how fast it was going.

Four seconds before the crash the Tesla wasn't following a vehicle any more.

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Tesla says drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel at all times when using the system, but many drivers at times opt not to do so.

Moreover, the NTSB found out that the vehicle had sped up from 62 miles per hour (100 km/h) to 71 miles per hour (114 km/h) in the final three seconds.

In the days after the crash, Huang's wife Savonne said her husband had complained about the system not working properly near the area where the crash occurred.

A Tesla SUV using the company's semi-autonomous Autopilot driving system accelerated just before crashing into a California freeway barrier, killing its driver, federal investigators have determined. In January, a Tesla Model S that may have been on autopilot hit a parked firetruck on Interstate 405 near Los Angeles. Federal agencies are investigating two other crashes in which Teslas ran into stopped fire department vehicles. The driver in the second incident told authorities she thought Tesla's emergency braking system would stop the vehicle to avert a collision.

"As these systems become more capable, they're actually becoming more unsafe", he says.

Tesla's system may have a problem spotting or stopping for stationary objects. 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". "Never depend on Automatic Emergency Braking to avoid or reduce the impact of a collision".

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.

It likely will take more than a year to determine what caused the crash, NTSB spokesman Christopher O'Neil said Thursday.

A Tesla spokesperson on Monday said the cars would only start offering a limited number of as-yet-undisclosed features, not full autonomy itself.

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