Tesla ‘partly to blame’ for accident

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found that Tesla’s Autopilot system was partly to blame for a fatal accident in which a Model S collided with a lorry.

According to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41242884) federal investigators said Tesla ‘lacked understanding’ of the semi-autonomous Autopilot’s limitations.

‘In this crash, Tesla’s system worked as designed, but it was designed to perform limited tasks in a limited range of environments,’ Christopher Hart, a member of the NTSB said in a meeting to discuss the findings of its investigation.

‘Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed, and the system gave far more leeway to the driver to divert his attention to something other than driving.’

In June, the NTSB released a 500-page report stating that in 37 minutes of driving, Tesla Driver Joshua Brown had his hands on the wheel for just 25 seconds.

The NTSB found that both Mr Brown and the lorry driver had sufficient sight distance to afford time for either party to have acted to prevent the collision. The investigation found that Mr Brown’s inattention and the lorry driver’s unwillingness to give way were both primary factors of the crash.

Following the meeting, the NTSB’s report included seven safety recommendations requiring car manufacturers to add safeguards to prevent automated vehicle control systems from being used outside the conditions for which they were designed.

In a statement, Tesla said, ‘At Tesla, the safety of our customers comes first, and one thing is very clear: Autopilot significantly increases safety, as NHTSA has found that it reduces accident rates by 40%.

‘We appreciate the NTSB’s analysis of last year’s tragic accident and we will evaluate their recommendations as we continue to evolve our technology.

‘We will also continue to be extremely clear with current and potential customers that Autopilot is not a fully self-driving technology and drivers need to remain attentive at all times.’