Last week, there was a fiery crash in Mountain View, CA where the driver of a Tesla Model X was killed. Now, the company has provided some details on the incident in a blog post. The blog post did not identify the driver, but was identified by ABC News as Apple engineer and former EA programmer Walter Huang, confirmed that its Autopilot feature was engaged when the crash occurred.
Here’s what Tesla said:
In the moments before the collision, which occurred at 9:27 a.m. on Friday, March 23rd, Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum. The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.
The company provided some specifics in terms of the crash, saying that a crash attenuators safety barrier that’s intended to mitigate the effect of a collision in that spot was missing due to an earlier crash. It also noted that the driver had time and unobstructed view of the divider before the crash occurred, there was no mention of what action the automated systems took at the time. The driver’s brother told a reporter that Huang previously complained about the car that it would swivel toward the exact barrier and complained to theTesla dealership about it, but they were not able to replicate the issue to fix it.
In the details, Tesla cited stats from the government showing Autopilot reduced crash rates by 40 percent, and suffered far fewer fatalities per mile than any other car on the market.
In the US, there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles from all manufacturers. For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware. If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.
Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents – such a standard would be impossible – but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.
No one knows about the accidents that didn’t happen, only the ones that did. The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe. There are about 1.25 million automotive deaths worldwide. If the current safety level of a Tesla vehicle were to be applied, it would mean about 900,000 lives saved per year. We expect the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars.
We’ve already heard that the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, looking into the fire and steps to make the car safe for removal from the scene. Additionally, Bloomberg reported that it’s also looking into another crash earlier this year where a Model S ran into a fire truck was parked on the highway, where the driver also claimed that Autopilot was engaged.
It’s not just Tesla that’s experiencing these problems. We’ve previously learned about Uber’s self-driving crash in Arizona that led to the fatality of the pedestrian. We can expect to hear more information coming from the testing of autonomous technology and how everything is handled.