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Don’t Blame Autopilot for that Pennsylvania Tesla Crash, Says Musk

Tesla Model X

Tesla’s Autopilot system is many things to many people — an automated folk devil to safety and consumer advocates, or a nice thing to have on a long drive (according to Jack Baruth) — but it isn’t the cause of a July 1 rollover crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The automaker’s CEO took to Twitter yesterday to claim that the Model X driven by a Michigan man wasn’t even in Autopilot mode at the time of the crash. Elon Musk said that data uploaded from the vehicle shows that Autopilot wasn’t activated, and added that the “crash would not have occurred if it was on.”

Tesla then released those digital logs to the media.

The fatal May 7 crash of a Model S in Florida (where the Autopilot system failed to detect a transport truck) put Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system under the microscope. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into that crash and the July 1 incident, and the National Transportation Safety Board is also having a look.

So, what happened on the Pennsylvania Turnpike? According to a Tesla spokesperson, the vehicle was in Autopilot mode 40 seconds before the crash, but hadn’t detected any driver interaction in a while.

For 15 seconds, the vehicle emitted “visual warnings and audible tones” to alert the driver, then began to shut down Autopilot mode. With the crash 25 seconds away, “Autosteer began a graceful abort procedure in which the music is muted, the vehicle begins to slow and the driver is instructed both visually and audibly to place their hands on the wheel.”

The company says the driver took hold of the wheel 11 seconds before the crash, turned the vehicle to the left and began accelerating. “Over 10 seconds and approximately 300 (meters) 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,” said Tesla.

Musk said in another tweet that the company sent identical copies of the vehicle log to the NHTSA and NTSB. Even if the Pennsylvania crash was caused by driver error, Tesla still faces plenty of heat over the Florida crash. Musk was recently asked to brief a Senate safety committee on the incident.

[Source: CNNMoney] [Image: Tesla Motors]

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