NTSB report: Tesla over speed limit, using automated features at time of crash

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 7/29/2016

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on a crash involving an autonomous Tesla Model S earlier this year, reporting the car was exceeding the posted speed limit and in autonomous mode at the time of the crash.

According to the report, the Tesla was traveling eastbound near Williston, Fla., on U.S. Highway 27A at approximately 4:40 p.m. on May 7. At the same time, a 2014 Freightliner Cascadia pulling a 53-foot trailer was turning left from westbound U.S.-27A, crossing over the eastbound lanes. The Tesla struck the trailer and passed underneath. It coasted nearly 300 feet into a utility pole, breaking it, and then continued for an additional 50 feet before spinning to a stop perpendicular to the highway.

The 40-year-old male driver and sole occupant of the Tesla died as a result of the crash.

Damage to the trailer occurred approximately 23 feet from the back toward the cab. Despite the fatal impact, the trailer suffered only minor damage to both the side panels and the undercarriage, according to the preliminary NTSB report.

According to the report, the Tesla was traveling at 74 mph on the 65 mph highway. The Model S was also running the Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer automation features. Additionally, the preliminary report stated the Tesla was equipped with automatic emergency braking, which is supposed to engage the brakes “to reduce the severity of or assist in avoiding frontal collisions.”

The preliminary report stated that the Tesla had several electronic systems that recorded and transmitted vehicle performance data. NTSB is still collecting and analyzing that data.

In a blog posted by Tesla, the company acknowledged “Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky.” The NTSB report points out that weather conditions were clear and sunny at the time of the crash.

The NTSB’s preliminary report does not indicate any sort of conclusion of fault in the crash. Final reports are generally published 12 months after the release of a preliminary report, according to NTSB. The facts presented in the preliminary report can be corrected or amended throughout the course of the investigation.

Related articles:
Man killed after autonomous Tesla Model S crashes into tractor-trailer
Consumer groups ask that autonomous technology slow down

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