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Third deadly Tesla auto-pilot and crash renews questions about the system

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tesla Inc. ‘ s automatic pilot system is 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 crash renews questions about the driver-assistance system the ability to detect hazards and has led to concerns 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.

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 crash sheared off the roof like the Tesla traveled under the trailer.

The vehicle was traveling about 68 miles (109 km) per hour (mph) on a highway with a 55-mph (89-km / h) maximum speed, and neither the system nor the driver made evasive maneuvers, the agency said.

Tesla said in a statement that after the driver is busy, the system that he “immediately removed his hands from the steering wheel. The automatic pilot had not used at any other time during the drive.”

The company added that “Tesla drivers have logged more than a billion kilometers with the autopilot engaged, and our data shows that, when used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers are supported by the autopilot are safer than those without help.”

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.

David Friedman, a former acting NHTSA administrator, said that the incident raises serious questions about the system and the lack of restrictions on use.

“One of the auto-pilot can’t see the broad side of a 18-wheeler, or the inability to react safely,” said Friedman, a vice-president for advocacy at Consumer Reports. “This system is not reliable navigate common road situations on his own and not to the driver involved exactly when it is needed most.”

He said Tesla “should limit the autopilot to the conditions where it can be safely used, and the installation of a much more effective system to check whether the driver engagement.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also investigating the Delray Beach, said Thursday it is “a careful evaluation of all available data and will share any findings upon conclusion of its investigation.”

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 NHTSA.

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.”

NHTSA, which has the power to safety recalls, is the 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 automatic pilot mode; and a 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, Meredith Mazzilli and Jonathan Oatis

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