Driver Errors, Overreliance on Automation, Lack of Safeguards, Led to Fatal Tesla Crash
The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
WASHINGTON (Sept. 12, 2017) — The National Transportation Safety Board determined Tuesday that a truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way and a car driver’s inattention due to overreliance on vehicle automation are the probable cause of the fatal May 7, 2016, crash near Williston, Florida.
The NTSB also determined the operational design of the Tesla’s vehicle automation permitted the car driver’s overreliance on the automation, noting its design allowed prolonged disengagement from the driving task and enabled the driver to use it in ways inconsistent with manufacturer guidance and warnings.
As a result of its investigation the NTSB issued seven new safety recommendations and reiterated two previously issued safety recommendations.
“While automation in highway transportation has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives, until that potential is fully realized, people still need to safely drive their vehicles,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt III. “Smart people around the world are hard at work to automate driving, but systems available to consumers today, like Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ system, are designed to assist drivers with specific tasks in limited environments. These systems require the driver to pay attention all the time and to be able to take over immediately when something goes wrong. System safeguards, that should have prevented the Tesla’s driver from using the car’s automation system on certain roadways, were lacking and the combined effects of human error and the lack of sufficient system safeguards resulted in a fatal collision that should not have happened,” said Sumwalt.
Findings in the NTSB’s report include:
The NTSB issued a total of seven safety recommendations based upon its findings, with one recommendation issued to the US Department of Transportation, three to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, two to the manufacturers of vehicles equipped with Level 2 vehicle automation systems, and one each to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Global Automakers.
The safety recommendations address the need for: event data to be captured and available in standard formats on new vehicles equipped with automated vehicle control systems; manufacturers to incorporate system safeguards to limit the use of automated control systems to conditions for which they are designed and for there to be a method to verify those safeguards; development of applications to more effectively sense a driver’s level of engagement and alert when engagement is lacking; and it called for manufacturers to report incidents, crashes, and exposure numbers involving vehicles equipped with automated vehicle control systems.
The board reiterated two safety recommendations issued to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2013, dealing with minimum performance standards for connected vehicle technology for all highway vehicles and the need to require installation of the technology, once developed, on all newly manufactured highway vehicles.
The abstract of the NTSB’s final report, that includes the findings, probable cause and safety recommendations is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xRMFc. The final report will be publicly released in the next several days. The docket for this investigation is available at https://go.usa.gov/xNvaE.
The webcast of the board meeting for this investigation is available for 90 days at https://ntsb.capitolconnection.org/