New details from a US government investigation into the crash of a Tesla Model S sedan last year show that the driver kept his hands off the wheel for extended periods despite repeated prompts from the car’s autopilot not to do so, Reuters reports. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released 500 pages of findings on the death of former Navy Seal Joshua Brown when his Tesla crashed into a tractor-trailer in Florida.
Brown was the first person to be killed in a self-driving car.
Brown had his hands on the wheel for just 25 seconds during a 37-minute period despite getting warned seven times visually, and six times with a chime.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had earlier cleared Tesla, finding no “safety-related defect trend” in its autopilot. However, Tesla altered the system after the crash, preventing drivers from using it if they don’t respond to warnings.
Now the newly released NTSA findings reveal that Brown had his hands on the wheel for just 25 seconds during a 37-minute period despite getting warned seven times visually, and six times with a chime. The driver set the car on cruise control at 74 mph (119 kmph) two minutes before the crash, when the speed limit was 65 mph. He did not take the wheel or apply the brake even though the tractor should have been visible to him at least seven seconds before the crash.
The government agency says it had to rely on Tesla for the vehicle data because it uses a proprietary software. Nevertheless, its findings are a green signal to the Tesla autopilot as well as the auto industry as a whole that’s adopting new technologies to assist drivers. Tesla had come under scrutiny after the crash, with questions being raised about whether self-driving technology was mature enough to be put on the roads. But the US government findings claim that Tesla cars with Autosteer technology are less likely to crash than cars without the automated tech to keep them within lane markings.
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