July 19, 2016

A Tesla Model X crashed in Pennsylvania, and the driver said it was because the autopilot feature failed. The company has reviewed the data from the crash, though, and they say the car was being manually driven and was not on autopilot.

The company says that the 77-year-old man who was driving the vehicle took his hands off of the steering wheel. The autopilot is designed to help drivers, not to drive for them, so the system is set up to turn off when the driver doesn’t hold the wheel.

The company says that there were visual warnings and audible tones for 15 seconds after the driver removed his hands. Roughly 25 seconds before the wreck, the autopilot started to shut down. The car started slowing down.

Tesla alleges that the data then shows that the driver grabbed the wheel about 11 seconds before he crashed. He turned it and also pushed the gas pedal.

About 10 seconds after that, Tesla says that the car, which was still being manually driven, drifted from the proper lane. It then hit a barrier, and the driver allegedly over-corrected his steering. He drove across both highway lanes, hit another barrier and caused the car to roll.

The driver ended up in the hospital as a result of the accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating, and they have not yet made a statement about the company’s claim that it was the driver who caused the crash, rather than the autopilot.

This case shows just how important these investigations are in determining fault. The driver believes the car caused the wreck, which would mean he could claim compensation from Tesla, but the company is claiming that the driver was actually at fault and they’re not liable. When both sides disagree, investigations by a third party — like the NHTSA — will prove critical in determining the outcome, and this case will be very interesting to watch.

Source: CNN, “Tesla says autopilot was not on during Pennsylvania crash,” Jackie Wattles, July 15, 2016