Driver Automation to Be Scrutinized in NTSB Probe of Tesla Crash
By Alan Levin Jeff Plungis
For years, U.S. investigators have been calling for more automation on motor vehicles, such as sensors that slam on the brakes to prevent a crash.
At the same time, the National Transportation Safety Board, in its probes of transportation mishaps, has warned that such devices may also have a down side: the technology can confuse operators if it’s poorly designed or lead to complacency that breeds its own hazards.
Now, for the first time in a highway accident, those two potentially contradictory themes will be put to the test as the NTSB opens an investigation into a fatal accident involving a Tesla Motors Inc. sedan that was driving with a feature called Autopilot enabled.
“It’s very significant,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety advocacy group in Washington. “The NTSB only investigates crashes with broader implications.”
The Safety Board will be sending a team of five investigators to Florida next week, agency spokesman Christopher O’Neil said Friday.
While the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is conducting its own review of the May 7 incident, the NTSB wants to take a more comprehensive look at whether the crash reveals any systemic issues with driverless car technology, O’Neil said. NHTSA is a regulatory agency and the NTSB is an independent investigative body that only has the power to make policy recommendations.
“It’s worth taking a look and seeing what we can learn from that event, so that as that automation is more widely introduced we can do it in the safest way possible,” O’Neil said.
A 40-year-old Ohio man died when his 2015 Tesla Model S struck an 18-wheeler on a highway near Williston, Florida, according to a Florida Highway Patrol statement. The Model S drove under the truck’s trailer, shearing off its top.
NTSB to Investigate Crash of Tesla WithAutopilot Engaged
By JOAN LOWY, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — Jul 8, 2016
A federal official says a second safety agency will investigate the fatal crash of a Tesla sedan while the vehicle's Autopilot self-driving mode was in use.