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Tesla was speeding in fatal truck collision, NTSB finds

Posted: August 2, 2016 by Today's Trucking Staff

WASHINGTON, DC – A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board has found that the 2015 Tesla Model S car was speeding at the time of the May 7 Florida highway crash that led to the first autonomous vehicle driver death in history. 

The preliminary report details the collision involving the 53-foot semi-trailer in combination with a 2014 Freightliner Cascadia truck tractor and the 2015 Tesla Model S. The report states that according to system performance data downloaded from the car, the indicated vehicle speed was 74 mph just prior to impact, and the posted speed limit was 65 mph.  

The report also confirmed that the Tesla was engaged in autonomous mode.

The May 7 crash is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where autopilot was activated, Tesla said in a June 30 statement. Tesla said further that, “The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S. Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents.” 

Investigators used three-dimensional laser scanning technology to document the crash scene. 

Many of the questions raised at the time of the crash, such as whether sensors couldn’t tell the white trailer from the bright sky, or if the driver of the Tesla was watching a movie, have yet to be addressed officially. 

A full report of the crash is expected within 12 months.

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