Autopilot Wasn’t On During Model X Crash: Tesla

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Tesla refuted the claim of the driver who said his car was on Autopilot when it crashed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike earlier this month. On Thursday, the electric car maker said logs from the Model X driven on July 1 by 77-year-old Albert Scaglione show that the vehicle took itself out of Autopilot about 25 seconds before the crash because the driver’s hand was not on the steering wheel.

Pennsylvania crash did not involve Autopilot

On Thursday, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that not only was the Autopilot system was turned off, but “the crash would not have occurred if it was on.” In addition, Tesla released a moment-by-moment description of what happened in the 40 seconds before the crash.

Autopilot started to disengage after 15 seconds of what the automaker described as “visual warnings and audible tones” because Scaglione’s hands were still not on the wheel. According to the EV maker, about 25 seconds before the crash, autosteer started a graceful abort procedure in which the vehicle starts to slow, the music is muted, and the driver is instructed both audibly and visually to place their hands on the wheel. The driver responded 11 seconds before the crash by retaking the wheel and turning it towards the left while pressing on the accelerator, said the automaker.

“Over 10 seconds and approximately 300m later and while under manual steering control, the driver drifted out of the lane, collided with a barrier, overcorrected, crossed both lanes of the highway, struck a median barrier, and rolled the vehicle,” the EV firm said.

Questions raised about Tesla’s Autopilot

Previously, Scaglione told CNNMoney that his Model X was in Autopilot mode when it crashed, but he did not indicate whether the electric car alerted him to retake the wheel or not. Drivers are told not to remove their hands from the steering wheel when the electric car is in Autopilot as it is intended to prevent accidents and not to operate the car independently.

This crash is one of the three crashes involving Tesla EVs in which the Autopilot feature was reportedly involved. That includes the fatal accident in Florida on May 7 that killed the driver and raised concerns about the safety of Autopilot. Tesla’s CEO, however, has rejected such criticisms staunchly, saying that Tesla EVs are safer when Autopilot is turned on than when it’s off.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was collecting information from police to determine whether or not automated functions were in use in the accident, resulting in the driver being hospitalized. The NHTSA is still to comment on Tesla’s recent claim.

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