When Joshua Brown’s Tesla slammed into the side of a tractor-trailer last year at more than 70 miles per hour, the fatal accident became the world’s first known car crash involving a partly autonomous vehicle.
Now, government investigators say that in the minutes leading up to the collision, Brown was audibly warned six times to keep his hands on the steering wheel. He was also warned visually, seven times, on his Tesla’s dashboard. In all, Brown had his hands on the wheel for 90 percent of his final drive, according to Tesla vehicle data reviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB on Monday released a roughly 500-page report detailing the facts of the case but declined to provide a final analysis or judgment because the investigation is ongoing. Included in the evidence are details about the highway where the crash occurred, both vehicles involved and, crucially, behavioural information from the Tesla that sheds light on Brown’s activities immediately before the accident. The case is being closely watched because the outcome of the investigation could affect consumer attitudes toward Tesla, automation and self-driving technology in particular.
Brown’s final drive in his Tesla lasted 41 minutes, according to the NTSB. Of those 41 minutes, 37 were spent with the autopilot enabled. Autopilot is Tesla’s term for its high-end cruise control feature that can help a vehicle stay in its lane semi-autonomously. The company declined to comment on the report. Tesla requires its drivers to keep their hands on the wheel even when Autopilot is engaged. But Brown appears to have ignored those warnings, even as he manually increased the autopilot’s speed 2 minutes before he crashed into the truck, according to the NTSB report. Read more here.