US NTSB “Unhappy” That Tesla Publicly Released Model X Crash Data

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Tesla Model X crashTesla’s decision to publicly release data about the recent much-publicized Model X auto accident and fatality has not been well received by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), according to a public statement just released by the authority.

While the statement generally spoke well of Tesla’s cooperation in the past with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it did note that the authority was “unhappy” with the decision to release the information in question.

A public statement noted that the agency “needs the cooperation of Tesla to decode the data the vehicle recorded. … In each of our investigations involving a Tesla vehicle, Tesla has been extremely cooperative on assisting with the vehicle data. … However, the NTSB is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla.

“The NTSB is looking into all aspects of this crash including the driver’s previous concerns about the autopilot. We will work to determine the probable cause of the crash and our next update of information about our investigation will likely be when we publish a preliminary report, which generally occurs within a few weeks of completion of field work.”

Reuters provides more information: “O’Neil was responding to Tesla’s announcement on Friday that the Tesla Model X involved in the crash had activated its Autopilot system moments before the March 23 mishap. The driver, 38, died at a nearby hospital shortly after the vehicle hit a concrete highway divider near Mountain View, California. The mishap involved two other vehicles.”

Continuing: “In its announcement on Friday, the company said that shortly before the crash, the vehicle’s ‘Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum.’ Autopilot allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel for extended periods under certain conditions. Tesla requires users to agree to keep their hands on the wheel at all times before they can use Autopilot. Users, however, routinely brag they can use the system to drive hands-free.”

Which is exactly why I’m somewhat skeptical that Tesla’s choice of the term “Autopilot” was a good one … too much stupidity has followed from it, even if, as Elon has argued, it does function in a similar way as an airplane’s autopilot system. While it’s not clear what happened in the most recent case in question, it is known that the driver had earlier been warned to put his hands on the wheel and that he apparently took no action to avoid the crash. That being the case, I have to wonder if perhaps he had a “health crisis” of some kind — a stroke or heart attack maybe — as I’m not sure why else he would allow the car to speed into a concrete highway divider to his certain death.

As reported previously, the metal safety structure that usually prevents direct impacts on concrete highway dividers (and thus often prevents fatalities) had apparently been missing for the last 11 days or so before the crash due to damage in an earlier incident. It’s very possible (or even likely) that if that structure had been in place at the time of the accident discussed above, a fatality would not have occurred.

Image: screenshot of ABC 7 news clip

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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