Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Tesla Model X In California Crash Sped Up Prior To Impact

Tesla Model X In California Crash Sped Up Prior To Impact

The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report detailing the fatal crash involving a Tesla Model X in March. The NTSB said the crash remains under investigation and that it could make changes to its preliminary report as it does more research on the matter. The electric vehicle's 400-volt lithium ion battery was breached and caught fire, according to the NTSB report. Three seconds before the crash, the Model X sped up from 62 to 70.8 miles per hour before hitting the barrier at roughly 71 miles per hour.

Federal investigators found that the Model X P100D's driver, Apple engineer Walter Huang, had set Autopilot to 75 miles per hour for almost 19 minutes prior to the impact while traveling on U.S. Highway 101 approaching State Highway 85.

At 7 seconds prior to the crash, the Tesla began a left steering movement while following a lead vehicle.

"Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents - such a standard would be impossible - but it makes them much less likely to occur", the blog post reads. Walter Huang, the 38-year old driver, was killed.

The Autopilot system was engaged on four separate occasions during the 32-minute trip, including continuous operation for the last 18 minutes and 55 seconds prior to the crash.

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Huang also had the Tesla's cruise control set at 75 miles per hour, but the auto was traveling slower than that because of another vehicle in front of it.

In the minute leading up to the crash, investigators said Huang had placed his hands on the steering wheel three separate times, for a total of 34 seconds, but he didn't touch the steering wheel in the six seconds leading up to the crash.

Tesla says it is "extremely clear that Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel".

The NTSB findings indicate that Autopilot steered the vehicle towards the crash attenuator and accelerated. But that device had been damaged in a previous crash on March 12.

Huang's Model X split and spun, striking two other cars, and burst into flames.

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In April, a Tesla Model S that struck a firetruck in Utah while in Autopilot mode may also have sped up before impact. That has lead some technology developers to focus on fully driverless technology, which requires nothing from passengers. "We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash". Drivers are expected to keep their hands on the wheel and engaged at all times when the feature is activated.

The crash still remains under investigation, with assistance from the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans.

Tesla's owner's manual warns drivers that the system may not detect stationary objects when traveling at higher speeds.

Tesla said earlier that "the reason this crash was so severe is because the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is created to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had been crushed in a prior accident without being replaced".

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