A new preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board contains a photo of the Tesla Model S that hit a semi-truck and passed beneath it while Autopilot was in use.
The investigation centers around a deadly accident in May involving the Tesla Model S and a semi-truck. The catastrophic crash killed the 40-year-old driver, and judging by the photo of the mangled car, we can see why.
The NTSB preliminary report confirms the use of Autopilot, Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system, at the time of the crash. The report also confirms the driver was speeding. He was going 74 miles per hour. The posted speed limit was 65.
The crash is believed to the first deadly accident involving self-driving technology, which is why the feds are involved in the investigation. The NTSB says it typically takes a full year to complete data analysis and issue a final probable cause of a crash in investigations like this one.
In wake of the accident, NHSTA chief Mark Rosekind is standing behind autonomous vehicles. The agency still believes self-driving technology is the key to making road safer by reducing human error. He also recently warned if we wait for the technology to be perfect, “we’ll be waiting a very, very long time.”
Tesla and MobileEye Cut Ties
Meanwhile, Tesla and Mobileye are cutting ties. The startup company makes the camera-based technology used in Autopilot. Its EyeQ3 vision chip is currently used in Tesla’s vehicles and will still be supported, but Tesla won’t use it in future iterations of the Autopilot. The companies are ending their relationship over disagreements about how the technology was deployed. Mobileye cites concern over the negative perception of autonomous technologies following the Tesla crash. While Tesla, on the other hand, says Mobileye can’t keep up with its technology needs.
Elon Musk’s Master Plan
Also, last week Elon Musk published his updated “Master Plan” for Tesla’s future. One of Musk’s goals is to make Autopilot 10 times safer than traditional driving. Musk says at the current rate, Tesla’s Autopilot will log 6 billion miles in about 5.5 years. He says it will likely be that long before self-driving technology wins regulatory approval worldwide.
Musk also explained why Tesla refers to Autopilot as “beta”.
“This is not beta software in any normal sense of the word. Every release goes through extensive internal validation before it reaches any customers,” Musk explained. “It is called beta in order to decrease complacency and indicate that it will continue to improve (Autopilot is always off by default). Once we get to the point where Autopilot is approximately 10 times safer than the U.S. vehicle average, the beta label will be removed.”