Tesla in Fatal Crash Was in Self-Driving Mode

Vehicle hit a highway barrier in California
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2018 8:01 AM CDT
In this March 23 photo provided by KTVU, emergency personnel work the scene of a fatal Tesla crash on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.   (KTVU via AP)

(Newser) – The Tesla Model X that slammed into a highway barrier in California last week and killed the 38-year-old Apple engineer at the wheel had been on autopilot at the time of the crash, Tesla confirms in a blog post. But the company says driver Walter Huang "received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive," adding that "the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision." Tesla also laid some blame on state highway officials, asserting that "the reason this crash was so severe is because the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had been crushed in a prior accident without being replaced."

The fact that the vehicle was on autopilot is likely to be controversial because, as ABC News notes, driver Huang had reportedly been concerned about it. His brother told KGO that Huang had brought his Model X back to the dealership complaining that when he used the feature, the car kept swerving toward the very same barrier that it eventually struck in the fatal collision. The NTSB is investigating the crash, including the fire that broke out after the collision. The accident follows another in Arizona in which a self-driving Uber struck and killed a pedestrian.

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