Tesla Model S Fatal Crash: NTSB Finds Autopilot a Major Factor in 2016 Florida Accident

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its findings in the fatal crash involving a driver of a Tesla Model S vehicle in Florida in 2016. The agency cited the car's autopilot feature as a major factor in the accident.

REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
The NTSB said that the Tesla Model S fatal car crash in 2016 was largely due to the dependence on the autopilot.

The NTSB board made its findings known on Tuesday, Sept. 12. It cited that while the autopilot feature worked, it cannot function properly in certain situations and especially not when a driver is disengaged from his driving task for prolonged periods.

"Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed," NTSB chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said. "The system gave far more leeway to the driver to divert his attention to something other than driving," he further said. "The result was a collision that, frankly, should have never happened."

Last May 2016, former Navy SEAL Joshua Brown's Tesla Model S was crossing the Florida highway when it collided with a truck. Investigation showed that Brown did not use the brakes nor tried to evade the vehicle and he died at the scene. The investigator's conclusion was that Brown's car was on autopilot, which brought to light the manufacture of self-driving cars.

The NTSB recommended that the autopilot feature in Tesla vehicles must be rendered unavailable at certain roads. Sumwalt also emphasized that there's a lack of system safeguards that Tesla should put in place.

The findings come as Congress is deliberating over fast-tracking self-driving car manufacturing while loosening requirements for automakers to comply with permits and safety standard measures. The move follows complaints by car companies as there have been a series of laws that slowed down progress for the self-driving vehicle industry. Automakers also reasoned that self-driving cars will lower the rate of accidents on the road given that majority of these are actually caused by 94 percent human error as reported by the National Traffic Safety Commission.

The NTSB published the full findings on its official site.