Officials Confirm Driver Was Speeding in Fatal Tesla Crash

By Alan Levin and Jeff Plungis | July 27, 2016

Federal investigators probing the deadly wreck in Florida of a Tesla car that was using automated driving technology have found that the vehicle was speeding when it hit a truck.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report Tuesday on the May 7 crash that the Tesla was traveling at 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour in a zone where the limit was 65 miles per hour.

The Model S Tesla was being operated by what the car company calls Autopilot. The NTSB called the system “Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer.” The car also had an automatic emergency braking system that was designed to slow or stop before a collision, according to the NTSB.

The 40-year-old Ohio man who was driving the Tesla was killed in the crash near Williston, Florida. In a blog post, Tesla said that the crash was the first known fatality in more than 130 million miles of Autopilot driving. That compares to a fatality every 94 million miles among all vehicles in the U.S.

The safety board released photos of the highway and vehicles involved, including a shot that shows the Tesla’s roof sheared off. The car passed underneath a semi-trailer, coasted off the road 297 feet, and struck a utility pole.

Car’s Computer

The tractor-trailer, which was transporting a load of blueberries to a local farm, sustained only minor damage. NTSB investigators used three-dimensional laser scans to document the crash scene, the car and the truck. The safety board is continuing to collect and analyze vehicle performance data from the car’s computer.

Both the NTSB and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating the crash. The preliminary NTSB report didn’t include any conclusions about why the collision occurred or whether Tesla’s Autopilot system contains any flaws. There’s no set date for the final report, although it typically takes a year or more for the safety board to complete an investigation.

Tesla spokeswoman Khobi Brooklyn didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed questions.

Tesla’s automation didn’t notice the white side of the tractor trailer as it turned in front of the car against a brightly lit sky so the brake wasn’t applied, according to the carmaker.

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