Tesla's Theories To The Fatal Model S Crash: Claims Not Fault Of Auto-Pilot

Aug 04, 2016 08:06 AM EDT | Sovan Mandal

Tesla representative recently had a meeting with the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee staff where the company is reported to have put forward two theories to explain the tragic May 7 crash when the Model S car was being run on Autopilot mode.

According to Reuters, one of the reasons Tesla believes led to the crash is that the radar and camera might have failed to pick up the truck and trailer and hence the emergency braking system did not get invoked. Another reason could be that the system might have detected the trailer alright but failed to judge if it was an obstacle that in turn requires firing up the braking system.

As Tesla further elaborated on the issues, the autopilot system on the Model S is already programmed to not respond in certain situations such as when it encounters structures like bridges or overhead signboards to avoid false braking. The company stated they are yet to ascertain whether the truck too was simply tuned out or whether the system has failed to detect it in the first place.

Tesla though chose to hold the autopilot system to be distinct from the emergency braking system. The company also defended its autopilot system claiming there is no reason to believe it to be the culprit. Tesla sources declined to reveal what the meeting yielded or what course of action is the investigation headed.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said their investigations revealed the ill-fated Model S was found speeding at 74 mph, which is 9 mph more than the permissible limit when the car hit the truck. The NTSB findings also confirmed the car was using advanced driver assistance features like Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer lane-keeping assistance when the crash occurred. The NTSB though failed to pin point the exact cause of the crash.

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) too is probing if the Tesla autopilot system can risk the driver's safety.

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