Driver in Fatal Tesla Crash Was Speeding While on Autopilot: NHTSA

driver in fatal tesla crash was speeding while on autopilot nhtsa

The National Transportation Safety Board didn’t assign any blame in its initial report into the fatal May 7 crash of a Tesla Model S, but did confirm new details.

The agency claims Joshua Brown’s vehicle was in Autopilot mode at the time of the crash, and was travelling above the 65 mile per hour speed limit before colliding with a tractor-trailer, according to Reuters.

Both the NTSB and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating the crash, billed as the first fatality involving a self-driving car. Much of the investigation’s focus is on what role the semi-autonomous Autopilot system had on the crash.

According to the NTSB’s findings, the Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer lane-keeping system on Brown’s vehicle were activated at the time of the crash. Tesla admitted that the vehicle’s Autopilot didn’t recognize the truck as it crossed the highway in front of Brown. The bright sunlight reflecting off the side of the trailer confused the system.

Besides that, the preliminary report found that Brown’s vehicle was going 74 miles per hour. While it’s above the speed limit on that highway, many drivers set their cruise control to nine miles per hour over the limit to make time and avoid speeding tickets.

An NTSB official said speeding could have contributed to the crash, but isn’t the cause. A full report is due a year from now.

The collision sheared off the top of Brown’s Tesla, which traveled 297 feet after exiting from underneath the trailer. The Model S then hit a power pole, snapping it, before coming to rest 50 feet away. Truck driver Frank Baressi claimed he heard the movie Harry Potter playing in the wreckage, but police said the portable DVD player and laptop found in the car weren’t running after the crash.

Baressi hasn’t been charged by Florida police.

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  • Dahammer Dahammer on Jul 29, 2016

    190 comments and still going strong. Pity most of them are from a couple of guys bickering among each other. I stopped reading at about post 75. I recommend going to google maps and taking a look at this intersection from the frame of reference of the truck driver. There is no way in hell this guy was making a left hand turn doing 35 mph. The width of the left turn lane, the size of the opening, and the narrow width of the street he was going into would prevent this from happening. Second, there was a visible crest in the road from the direction of the Tesla's travel, this would limit visibility of the truck driver. But from the height of the cab, he should have seen the Tesla. I'm surprised there is no video from the BP station. But driving 74 on this type of four lane road with cross traffic on the same grade is plain stupid. And there is no way in hell I would set it and forget it like that poor bastard seems to have done.

    • See 17 previous
    • Accord1999 Accord1999 on Jul 30, 2016

      @Pch101 Every enthusiast is going to claim that driving any road at any speed without paying attention to the road is an act of madness.

  • TriumphDriver TriumphDriver on Jul 30, 2016

    @pch101: the problem with your case here is that you are basing it on an accident report that is fairly superficial and not necessarily accurate. We know the speed of the Tesla cited in the report is a guess (which you have never acknowledged), I think it is highly likely that the speed of the truck is also nothing more than a guess. The drawing is clearly labeled not to scale and shows us nothing other than the paths of the vehicles but has no indication of the changes in their position over time so you really can't draw too many conclusions from that sketch. It is possible that the truck driver was unable to see the Tesla when he started making his turn. It is possible that he did see the car, decided he could safely complete the turn but was mistaken because the car was traveling at a higher than expected speed. It is possible that he determined that as long as the Tesla slowed down the turn would be OK. It is possible he just didn't bother looking at all. And so on. There are scenarios where the truck driver is at fault, there are scenarios where he may not be at fault. Your one-eyed view of the event does not admit of any of these alternative scenarios and so you simply repeat your statement and insult anyone who disagrees with you. That's not really adding anything to the thread. I expect some sort of silly response to this post which I will ignore. The inquiry may be able to reconstruct the events more accurately than the FHP report, but I would expect their main focus to be on the automation aspect. It's pretty clear that the system failed to interpret the input data. What is not clear is how the driver interacted or failed to interact with the system, whether the system gave any indication to the driver of a need to assume controland on a broader front to what degree are drivers becoming dependent on the system and using it in ways that Tesla does not intend them to. If the report is going to offer anything of use it has to look at those kinds of issues both for the sake of drivers and for the sake of those trying to develop the systems, regardless of degree of assistance provided by the system. Automation dependency is a significant problem in aviation (google Children of Magenta for an excellent presentation of this.) There was a piece in the Wall Street Journal this week presenting reactions of aviation experts to the incident here in question. I am not suggesting that the systems in planes and cars are in any way at the same stage of automation, but the human factors involved in introducing automation into automobiles will have quite a lot in common with those on the flight deck, excepting issues of crew resource management since we don't generally divide driving responsibilities in a car. It is generally accepted that humans don't do an especially good job of monitoring computer systems, and the sudden transition from automatic flight to manual control has caused pilots problems. It may have been a factor in the wreck in PA, it may have been a factor here. It will be interesting to read the NTSB's conclusions.

    • See 1 previous
    • VoGo VoGo on Jul 30, 2016

      @Pch101 PCH You appear to have an unrealistic set of expectations when it comes to the standards states set for obtaining a driver's license.

  • Theflyersfan I was living in one part of the world when China and Russia were completing their 21st century scramble of Africa. They were pumping billions into the economies of these countries building new dams, bridges, skyscrapers, freeways/toll roads, utilities, power plants, you know - projects that would benefit the average resident of said location. All they wanted in exchange were the mineral, mining, fishing, timber, etc., rights of said location. And they got them. So during that era when they were looking at global expansion, we were fighting unwinnable wars and our "leaders" on the left were yelling at the "leaders" on the right and vice versa, and what happens when all you do is stare and focus on one thing like DC is known to do? The world moves on around you. And that's what happened here.We had the same opportunity to build Africa up and to make the same deals as other countries, but our "nation building" tends to take place via the conversion from something solid and standing to something in pieces and in rubble. So it looks like we'll continue to have to deal with hostile nations holding our feet into the fire and working through their many geopolitical issues just so we can continue to get cheap electronics and necessary materials in our manufacturing just because we decided around 40+ years ago to ship it all overseas because we wanted to save 50 cents on a pack of socks and the CEOs needed their next quarterly statement to look even better to the shareholders so they could increase their pay and bonuses, consequences be damned.
  • DweezilSFV I didn't think GM could make a worse looking truck than their full-sizers.Success.
  • DweezilSFV GM. Still trying to make OnStar happen.And still the answer to a question no one ever asked.
  • Corey Lewis Look, here's the voice warning record player!
  • Buickman as Donnie Brosco said... Forget about it.