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Tesla Autopilot fatal crash data released by NTSB

Following a fatal accident in a Tesla Model S on Autopilot in May 2016, both the National Transportation Safety Board Office of Public Affairs (NTSB) and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched investigations into the accident and Tesla’s Autopilot.

NHTSA closed its investigation earlier this year without finding any problem with the Autopilot that could have caused the crash, but NTSB’s investigation is still ongoing.

While they haven’t released the results of said investigation yet, they decided to release all the data that they have gathered since launching the investigation.

NTSB’s summary of the crash:

“On Saturday, May 7, 2016, a 2015 Tesla Model S 70D, traveling eastbound on US Highway 27A (US-27A) west of Williston, Florida, struck and passed beneath a refrigerated semitrailer powered by a 2014 Freightliner Cascadia truck-tractor. At the time of the collision, the truck was making a left turn from westbound US-27A across the two eastbound travel lanes. Impact with the right side of the semitrailer sheared off the roof of the Tesla. The driver and sole occupant of the Tesla died in the crash; the commercial truck driver was not injured.”

You can access the docket of material here. It contains hundreds of pages of crash reconstruction report, description of the crash sequence, interview transcripts and summaries, photographs, and other investigative material.

There are not much new information beyond what NHTSA reported when closing its investigation earlier this year. It does seem to confirm that the Tesla driver wasn’t watching a video when on Autopilot, which is something that was said in news reports based on witness accounts.

After looking through the electronic devices in the car, NTSB found no evidence that they were in use and its witness accounts don’t match what was previously reported. 

The report also shows that the driver of the Freightliner had a trace amount of marijuana in his system and he refused to collaborate with NTSB investigators.

The most interesting bit of information from NTSB’s data, which include Autopilot logs, is that the Tesla driver, Joshua Brown, received several alerts to “hold the steering wheel” before the accident, but his hands haven’t been detected on the wheel for over 6 minutes – something that would be difficult to do with Autopilot today since ignoring alerts lead to the vehicle engaging into moving to the side of the road and stopping.

To be clear, NTSB is not releasing any conclusions – just the data. They say that “analysis, findings, recommendations, and probable cause determinations related to the crash will be issued by the Board at a later date.”

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