The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report that Tesla’s Autopilot system was active at the time of a fatal Model 3 crash in Delray Beach, Florida. Data showed the car’s driver, who died in the March 1st incident, activated Autopilot around 10 seconds before the collision. A Tesla spokesperson told Engadget that, shortly afterwards, it gave the NTSB and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration vehicle logs indicating that once the driver activated Autopilot, he “immediately removed his hands from the wheel.” The car didn’t detect his hands on the wheel again before impact.
Initial data also showed the Tesla was traveling at 68 miles per hour, 13 mph above the speed limit, when it hit the truck, whose driver was uninjured. According to the report, the truck was crossing the highway from a side road when the Model 3 struck the side of the trailer, shearing off the roof and killing the Tesla driver. The car continued traveling on the highway for about 1,600 feet before it stopped.
None of the data or videos from the incident indicate the driver or Autopilot carried out evasive maneuvers, the NTSB said. The prelim report doesn’t include mention anything about warnings the driver may have ignored, as has been the case in some prior crashes.
It might be some time before the NTSB releases its final report, as it said investigations related to fatalities usually take between 12 and 24 months to complete. Following previous Autopilot-linked crashes, Tesla rolled out an update last June that frequently reminds drivers to hold the wheel, apparently as often as every 15 seconds.