Tesla’s autopilot system was engaged during the fatal Florida crash in March: the NTSB

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tesla Inc Autopilot feature was turned on during a fatal March 1 crash of a b-2018 Model 3 in Delray Beach, Florida, in at least the third fatal US crash reported in which the driver-assistance system, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: An advertisement that promotes the Tesla auto-pilot in a showroom of the AMERICAN automaker Tesla in Zurich, Switzerland, March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The NTSB’s preliminary report said the driver working on automatic pilot for about 10 seconds before the crash in a trailer, and the system does not recognize the driver’s hands on the steering wheel for less than eight seconds before the crash.

The vehicle was traveling about 68 miles per hour (mph) on a highway with a 55 mph speed limit, and neither the system nor the driver made evasive maneuvers, the agency said.

While some Tesla drivers say that they are able to avoid holding the steering wheel for a longer time during the use of the autopilot, Tesla advises drivers to get their hands on the wheel and your attention during the use of the system.

Tesla didn’t immediately comment on the Thursday.

The incidents have raised questions about the safety of the systems you can run with driving tasks for long stretches of time with little or no human intervention, but cannot completely replace human drivers.

In May 2016, a Tesla Model S driver was killed in the vicinity of Williston, Florida, while the automatic pilot was switched on, when he slammed into a tractor trailer that also sheared off the roof of the vehicle.

In a fatal crash in Mountain View, California, in March 2018, with a Model X on the auto-pilot mode, Tesla said vehicle logs showed the driver had received warnings his hands on the steering wheel, but no action was taken by the driver ahead of the crash. That the incident is being investigated by both the NTSB and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NTSB said in 2017 that Tesla lacked proper safeguards so that the driver’s “use of the system outside the environment for which it is designed and the system gave too much space to the driver that you want to divert his attention.”

The auto safety regulator, NHTSA, is also the exploration of the Delray Beach crash and investigation of a fatal incident in Davie, Florida, on Feb. 24 in which a 2016 Tesla Model S that caught fire and burned the 48-year-old driver beyond recognition. It was not clear whether the automatic pilot has been involved in this incident.

NHTSA can demand a recall if it is of the opinion that a defect poses an unreasonable danger to the safety, while the NTSB makes safety.

The NTSB said that it had reviewed the forward-facing video of the Tesla in Delray Beach crash.

NHTSA also is probing the January 2018 to crash a Tesla, apparently traveling in the automatic pilot that hit a fire truck in Culver City, California, a May 2018 crash in Utah of a Tesla in the auto-pilot mode, and May 2018 Tesla accident in Florida death of two teenagers and another injured, but was not on automatic pilot mode.

The NTSB is also investigating an August 2017 Tesla battery fire in California, where an owner ran the car in his garage.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Meredith Mazzilli

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