Tesla car involved in fatal crash had Autopilot engaged

Tesla has revealed that the car involved in a recent fatal crash in Mountain View, California had its Autopilot system engaged at the time of the collision.

After recovering the car’s computer logs from inside the crashed vehicle, the carmaker said that it had more information about what may have happened.

“In the moments before the collision, which occurred at 9:27 a.m. on Friday, March 23rd, Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum,” wrote the company in an update on the crash.

The news is likely to spark renewed concerns about the safety of automated driving technologies, in the wake of a fatal crash between an Uber self-driving car and a pedestrian in Arizona.

The disclosure will also draw attention to technologies that require human drivers to be ready to resume control of a vehicle, as carmakers introduce increasingly advanced driver assistance systems on the path to full autonomy.

The company’s statement appeared to suggest that driver inaction had contributed to the crash. “The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision,” said Tesla.

The carmaker said that the driver involved had around five seconds and 150 metres of unobstructed view of the concrete lane divider that the car hit. However, noted Tesla, “the vehicle logs show that no action was taken”.

The National Transportation Safety Board has announced that it is investigating the crash, in addition to the fatal Uber collision in Tempe, Arizona.

In its update, Tesla defended the safety record of its Autopilot technology. “If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident,” wrote the carmaker.

“No one knows about the accidents that didn’t happen, only the ones that did,” added Tesla.