The driver killed in a recent Model 3 crash was travelling with Autopilot engaged, NTSB report reveals

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

  • Tesla‘s semi-autonomous Autopilot system was engaged during a fatal accident from March involving a Tesla Model 3 sedan, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a preliminary report released on Thursday.
  • The Model 3 was driving on a highway in Florida on March 1 when it hit the side of a truck at around 68 mph.
  • Autopilot was engaged around 10 seconds before the collision, but the driver’s hands were not detected on the steering wheel in the final eight seconds before the crash.
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Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system was engaged during a fatal accident from March involving a Tesla Model 3 sedan, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a preliminary report released on Thursday.

The Model 3 was driving south on a highway in Florida on March 1 when a truck drove across the highway’s southbound lanes to turn onto its northbound lanes. As the truck pulled into the southbound lanes, the Model 3 hit its left side at around 68 mph, which removed the Model 3’s roof and killed its driver. The truck’s driver was not injured.

According to the NTSB, the Model 3 driver activated Autopilot – a semi-autonomous driver-assistance feature that can control steering and speed in certain circumstances, but requires driver supervision – around 10 seconds before the collision. In the eight seconds before the crash, the Model 3 did not detect the driver’s hands on the steering wheel.


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“We are deeply saddened by this accident and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy,” a Tesla representative said. “Tesla drivers have logged more than one billion miles with Autopilot engaged, and our data shows that, when used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without assistance.”

Tesla has received criticism for how it has promoted Autopilot, and other fatal accidents involving the feature have raised questions about whether drivers place too much trust in it and fail to pay attention to the road. Tesla says Autopilot is meant to be used with an attentive driver whose hands are on the wheel, but the most visible accidents involving Autopilot have involved reports of distracted drivers.

Tesla has pointed to the fact that vehicles with Autopilot engaged have lower accident rates than those in which Autopilot is not activated. But Tesla’s data does not account for factors, like the environments in which drives most often use Autopilot, that could also account for some of the difference in accident rates.

In 2018, Consumer Reports released its ranking of four semi-autonomous driver-assistance systems. Autopilot ranked second, behind Cadillac’s Super Cruise, with the highest rating among the four for capability, performance, and ease of use, but the lowest for keeping drivers engaged.

Have you worked for Tesla? Do you have a story to share? Contact this reporter at [email protected].

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