Tesla Autopilot has been vindicated by its event data recorder in a highly publicized fatal crash that was reported as having “no one at the wheel.”
Earlier this year, a strange and tragic accident in a Tesla happened in Spring, Texas.
A Tesla Model S missed a turn, hit a tree, and caught on fire, killing the two passengers.
The strange thing was that the police said they don’t think anyone was in the driver seat as someone was found on the front passenger seat and another in the back seat.
Further, a family member of the Tesla owner said that he jumped in the back seat when starting the drive.
As we noted, the local media presented the accident as being an autonomous vehicle crash, but Tesla doesn’t have any autonomous vehicles on the road right now – only vehicles with driver-assist features and the FSD Beta, which is also considered level 2 driver assist.
Either way, the Autopilot was blamed in the media and both the NTSB and NHTSA launched investigations into the accidents.
Today, the NTSB released an update to its investigation based on the Event Data Recorder (EDR).
The agency reported that the EDR data points to the driver actually being in the driver seat at the moment of the crash and pressing the accelerator pedal:
With the assistance of the EDR module manufacturer, the NTSB Recorders Laboratory repaired and downloaded the fire-damaged EDR. Data from the module indicate that both the driver and the passenger seats were occupied, and that the seat belts were buckled when the EDR recorded the crash. The data also indicate that the driver was applying the accelerator in the time leading up to the crash; application of the accelerator pedal was found to be as high as 98.8%. The highest speed recorded by the EDR in the 5 seconds leading up to the crash was 67 mph.
This contradicts the reports that no one was in the driver’s seat.
Furthermore, previously released postmortem toxicology showed that the driver had alcohol levels above the Texas limit.
The accident remains tragic nonetheless, but it does serve as a good example that it’s better not to jump to conclusions about crashes involving Tesla vehicles, especially when it comes to blaming Autopilot.
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