In another blow to the self-driving car industry, Tesla’s self-driving car tech was activated before a fatal accident last year. The findings come from the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, this week. Investigators found that the January 2018 crash in Culver City, California, was partly caused by Tesla’s Autopilot program. The system in question was the 2014 Model S, which was engaged for almost 14 minutes before the crash. In December, there was even a problem with a Connecticut police cruiser.
The vehicle crashed into a fire truck parked on I-405. According to the NTSB investigation, the vehicle traveled at about 21 miles per hour before changing lanes. It then accelerated to the cruise control speed of 80 miles per hour. During this, it hit the fire truck while going 30.9 mph. According to the Tesla system, the driver did not control the vehicle for the last 3 minutes and 41 seconds before the crash.
The investigation did not find the driver using his cell phone, although it is possible that he was drinking a beverage or adjusting the radio.
Unfortunately, the NTSB investigates similar Tesla Autopilot system issues in at least three fatal crashes in the United States. This includes one in March 2018 in Delray Beach, FL, and another in Mountain View, CA. A further 2016 crash near Williston, FL, killed a driver using the autopilot system. The car hit a tractor-trailer. These crashes are yet another sign that the much-vaunted self-driving car tech is far behind the promises.
Instead of being ready for regular use, many systems are still in the alpha stage of development and are dangerous to those both in the vehicles and on the road. Hopefully, regulators get a hold of the situation before another innocent person dies. The big car companies push profits over reliable tech. We as consumers deserve better– starting with real promises.