The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has states that Tesla and lax regulation of the new partially automated driving systems, are to blame for a fatal 2019 crash in Florida involving a Tesla that had the Autopilot feature engaged. According to a Fox News report, the NTSB said the design of the Autopilot system contributed to the crash because it allowed the Tesla’s driver to avoid paying attention. Tesla also failed to limit where Autopilot can be used, allowing motorists to activate it even in areas for which it was not designed, the NTSB report stated.
Report Highlights Autopilot’s Inadequacies
The board investigates such crashes and makes safety recommendations. But this time, it also took the unusual step of accusing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of contributing to the crash by failing to ensure that automakers put safeguards in place to limit the use of electronic driving systems to areas where they were not designed to work.
This report is another instance where the two agencies sparred over the regulation of new semi-automated technology, which NHTSA has been reluctant to take on. The fatal crash on March 1, 2019, in Delray Beach, Florida, killed the 50-year-old driver of a Tesla Model 3. The car was traveling at 69 mph when neither the driver nor the Autopilot system braked or tried to avoid a big rig that was crossing in its path on U.S. 441. The car struck the trailer whose driver, the report cited, for turning in front of the Tesla. The trailer ended up shearing the Tesla’s roof.
NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said this is the third fatal crash the board has investigated “where a driver’s overreliance on Tesla’s Autopilot and the operational design of Tesla’s Autopilot had led to tragic consequences.” Board members have expressed frustration that Tesla has ignored its previous safety recommendations from other fatal crash investigations. NTSB’s report states that Autopilot was not designed to work in areas with cross-traffic and yet Tesla allows drivers to use it under those circumstances.
Not Ready for Primetime
Our auto defect attorneys have continually maintained that Tesla equipped its vehicles with Autopilot before this feature was ready for primetime. It’s still not ready for our roadways. Sadly, these accidents and fatalities will continue until the federal government forces Tesla and other automakers through proper regulation to test their semi-automated and automated systems properly before putting them in consumers’ hands.