Tomorrow, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) plans to release its report to “determine the probable cause of the fatal, May 7, 2016, crash of a Tesla near Williston, Florida”.
Ahead of the release, Bloomberg reported that that the board concluded that Tesla’s Autopilot “shares blame” for the accident that cost the life of the driver, Joshua Brown.
But the company argues against the publication’s interpretation.
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Bloomberg’s report is based on an unnamed staff at NTSB:
“The investigative staff of U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, in its first probe of the wave of autonomous driving systems being introduced by carmakers, has recommended that Tesla’s Autopilot system be declared a contributing factor in the crash because it allowed the driver to go for long periods without steering or apparently even looking at the road, according to a person briefed on the findings.”
They also say that “the truck driver’s failure to yield and Brown’s inattention to the highway were the primary reasons for the collision”.
Tesla says that NTSB doesn’t assign blame. A spokesperson wrote in a statement:
“At Tesla, the safety of our customers comes first, and we appreciate that the NTSB is conducting an analysis of last year’s tragic incident, the findings of which will be released tomorrow. However, contrary to Bloomberg’s reporting, the NTSB makes it explicitly clear in every report they issue that it ‘does not assign fault or blame for an accident or incident.’ While Autopilot has already been shown to significantly improve safety, we will evaluate whatever recommendations the NTSB ultimately releases tomorrow as we continue to evolve our technology.”
We should have a better idea with NTSB’s official report tomorrow.
NHTSA closed its own investigation into the matter earlier this year without finding any problem with the Autopilot that could have caused the crash.
Ahead of NTSB’s report, Brown’s family issued a statement (in full here) in which they said that they believe the car wasn’t to blame:
“We heard numerous times that the car killed our son. That is simply not the case. There was a small window of time when neither Joshua nor the Tesla features noticed the truck making the left-hand turn in front of the car. People die every day in car accidents. Many of those are caused by lack of attention or inability to see the danger. Joshua believed, and our family continues to believe, that the new technology going into cars and the move to autonomous driving has already saved many lives. Change always comes with risks, and zero tolerance for deaths would totally stop innovation and improvements.”