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Published: Sat, June 09, 2018
Economy | By Melissa Porter

NTSB releases preliminary report on fatal Model X crash

NTSB releases preliminary report on fatal Model X crash

Autopilot was being used continuously for the 18 minutes and 55 seconds before the crash, investigators said.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on the recent fatal Tesla Autopilot accident involving a Model X that struck a highway divider in California.

Walter Huang, the owner of the vehicle who died as a result of the crash, had previously taken his auto into the Tesla dealership, saying his auto had a way of veering toward the exact barrier his auto hit, ABC7 reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued its preliminary report on the March 23 accident in which the driver, Walter Huang, of Foster City, died after his 2017 Tesla Model X P100D slammed into a safety barrier at the Highway 85 interchange after traveling south on Highway 101.

While Tesla tells drivers they must keep their hands on the steering wheel and monitor the semi-autonomous system, the auto can follow traffic, steer and control speed in some situations. The impact sheered off the electric crossover's front end and the vehicle crashed into an Audi and a Mazda also traveling on the highway.

The crash on March 23 in Mountain View, Santa Clara, which involved two other vehicles, saw one driver sustain minor injuries, with the Tesla driver dying later in hospital.

As the vehicle approached an area where two lanes diverged and became separated by a highway barrier, the vehicle moved to the left and drove on a path that would lead it directly into the barrier's crash attenuator - which is created to limit the impact from collisions - which had been damaged in another collision less than two weeks earlier. Investigators discovered that the Tesla was following a auto until seconds before the crash. Huang was pulled from the vehicle and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The NTSB didn't report any alerts in the moments leading up to the crash. In the post, the company said the driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the highway barrier but took no action to avoid the collision, citing vehicle logs. A second later, the auto began to steer left while still following the lead vehicle. In their report, the NTSB says Huang's Autopilot system sped up to 70.8 miles per hour (from 62 mph) three seconds prior to the crash, rather than slowing down or coming to a stop.

Tesla's system may have a problem spotting or stopping for stationary objects.

The safety board is investigating four Tesla crashes since previous year and looking at post-crash fire issues and the use of Autopilot. The driver in the second incident told authorities she thought Tesla's emergency braking system would stop the auto to avert a collision.

The impact killed the Tesla's driver and severed the electric crossover SUV. "It is the driver's responsibility to drive safely and remain in control of the vehicle at all times", it says.

"Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents - such a standard would be impossible - but it makes them much less likely to occur", Tesla wrote in a March blog post. Among other factors, investigators are trying to determine how the car's camera, radar and ultrasonic sensors were working and what they were tracking. That has lead some technology developers to focus on fully driverless technology, which requires nothing from passengers.

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