Tesla and the US National Transport Safety Board are investigating a fatal crash involving Autopilot.
Wei Huang, an Apple software engineer, was killed when his Model X struck a barrier on US Highway 101 in Mountain View, California on March 23.
According to Tesla, the driver received multiple visual and one audible ‘hands-on warning’, and was running with his hands off the wheel for six seconds prior to the accident.
A statement published on the official Tesla Blog also alleges the driver had five seconds and 150 metres of “unobstructed” vision of the concrete divider he eventually hit.
As the image at the top of our story shows, the Model X was utterly destroyed by the accident. Tesla says the damage was so severe because the barrier Huang struck had previously been damaged.
In an attempt to reassure owners – and the wider public, of course – about Autopilot’s safety, Tesla said owners have driven the same stretch of Highway 101 with Autopilot engaged around 85,000 times since the feature was introduced in 2015, are around 20,000 times since the start of 2018 without any notable problems.
Investigators with the US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) expressed frustration with the fact Tesla has shared information about the accident publicly.
“At this time the NTSB needs the assistance of Tesla to decode the data the vehicle recorded,” spokesman, Chris O’Neil, told The Washington Post.
“In each of our investigations involving a Tesla vehicle, Tesla has been extremely cooperative on assisting with the vehicle data.
“However, the NTSB is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla.”
Although it was initially focusing the damaged barrier and a post-crash battery fire, the NTSB broadened its focus to “all aspects of this crash” after it became clear the driver had previously expressed concerns about Autopilot.
Since the accident, videos of owners experiencing Autopilot issues (without the tragic results, thankfully) over the same stretch of road have begun emerging.
This isn’t the first time Tesla Autopilot has been tied up in a major accident. Joshua Brown was killed in 2016, when his Model S didn’t pick up a white tractor-trailer crossing a Florida highway.
Autonomous driving has been thrust into the spotlight this month, too, after a self-driving Uber struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona.