NTSB to investigate another Tesla autopilot crash

January 24, 2018

Tyson Fisher

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The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday that it will investigate a Tesla autopilot crash that occurred Monday, Jan. 22 in Culver City, Calif. This will be the second NTSB accident investigation regarding Tesla’s autonomous features as the federal government pushes autonomous vehicle legislation.

On Monday, the Culver City firefighters’ Twitter account posted a tweet about a vehicle that had just struck one of its firetrucks. A Tesla vehicle had crashed into the stopped firetruck while traveling 65 mph. Fire crews were working a freeway accident when the crash occurred.

According to the tweet, the driver said that Tesla was on autopilot at the time. Despite the speed the Tesla driving and the size of the stopped firetruck, no injuries were reported.

In May 2016, a 40-year-old former Navy SEAL was killed in a crash after his 2015 Tesla Model S drove through a 2003 Utility reefer pulled by a 2014 Freightliner Cascadia turning left across U.S. Highway 27A near Williston, Fla. The Tesla was traveling 74 mph on a 65 mph highway, shearing off the roof of the Tesla, which coasted 300 feet from the tractor-trailer before striking a utility pole and moving an additional 50 feet before spinning to a stop.

NTSB’s final report on the Florida crash concluded that the Tesla driver had the Autopilot Technology Package option installed, including Autopark, Traffic-Aware Cruise Control, Autosteer, Auto Lane Change and Forward Collision Warning.

Fault was directed to both Tesla and the driver. NTSB said that Tesla could have done more to prevent drivers from abusing the autonomous by treating it like a fully self-driving vehicle. On the other hand, the report noted that the driver was also at fault for not paying attention despite the autonomous features requiring human operators to be attentive, including keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

Meanwhile, Congress and the Department of Transportation are trying to propel legislation and federal guidelines for autonomous vehicles. In September the House introduced the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution (SELF DRIVE) Act and the Senate introduced the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act.

Both the House and Senate bills include provisions that prohibit states from enacting or enforcing laws or regulations regarding the design, construction or performance of autonomous vehicles. Also included in the bill is a provision speeding up the process for the secretary of transportation to eliminate and update references to “human drivers and occupants” in federal motor vehicle safety standards.

Most notably is the exclusion of large commercial vehicles. Both the AV Start Act and the SELF DRIVE Act explicitly exempt large commercial vehicles from the proposed legislation. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has held hearings addressing the issue. Lawmakers are obtaining input from trucking industry stakeholders to find a way to either include trucks in pending legislation or create a separate bill regulating AV technology in trucks. So far, the issue is in limbo as AV legislation and guidelines move forward.

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.

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