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Man Dies While Using Tesla's Autopilot System

A male driver was killed in a collision while utilizing the semi-autonomous driving system on his Tesla Model S sedan. The man kept both of his hands off the wheel for extended periods of time immediately after receiving repeated automated warnings not to do so, a U.S. government report stated recently.

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released more than 500 pages of findings concerning the May 2016 fatality of Joshua Brown, a former Navy SEAL, near Williston, FL. Brown's Model S collided with a truck while it was engaged in the "Autopilot" mode, which caused Brown's death.

A Tesla spokesperson Keely Sulprizio declined to make any comments concerning the NTSB report. However, last year the company said Autopilot "does not permit the driver to relinquish responsibility". 

The Brown family's attorney Jack Landskroner stated in a recent email that the NTSB's findings should put to rest a series of previous media reports that Brown was watching a movie at the time of the crash, which were called "completely 100% inaccurate."

Landskjroner also added that the family has not taken any legal action against Tesla and was still in the process of reviewing the NTSB report.

This particular fatality raised quite a few questions regarding the safety of the various systems that can perform driving tasks for long periods of time with little or no human intercession, but which cannot completely replace human operators.

During the 37-minute period of the trip when Brown was required to have both of his hands on the wheel, he evidently did so for only 25 seconds, the NTSB report stated.

The report said the Autopilot mode stayed on during the majority of his trip, and that it gave him 7 separate noticeable visual warnings that said "Hands Required Not Detected."

In 6 instances, the system then sounded a chime before it returned to its "Hands Required Detected" warning for 1-3 second periods.

Last year, Tesla announced improvements in its Autopilot system, adding new limits on hands-off driving and other bells and whistles that its chief executive officer said would have prevented the death of Brown. The new updated system temporarily stops drivers from using the system if they don't respond promptly to audible warnings to regain control of the vehicle.

In January, the NHTSA reported that it found no evidence of defects in the aftermath of Brown's death.

Sources: NHTSA, Tesla and San Jose Mercury News


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