Fatal Tesla Autopilot crash: Driver got seven warnings to put hands on wheel

The man who died while driving a Tesla in Florida last year received seven automated warnings that his hands were supposed to be on the wheel, according to the NTSB.

The government report released Monday showed that Josh Brown, 40, had his hands on the wheel for only 25 seconds of the 37-minute trip.

In the fatal crash in May 2016, which put Tesla’s Autopilot technology in the spotlight, Brown crashed his Tesla Model S into a truck that was making a left turn in front of him. Both Brown and Autopilot failed to brake.

In a 500-page report, the National Transportation Safety Board said that six of the seven automated warnings Brown received were visual — saying “hands required not detected” — accompanied by a chime. One of the warnings was visual only.

The report also indicates the vehicle was in cruise control at 74 mph for “two minutes up to and just after the crash.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cleared Tesla in January, saying after a six-month investigation that it had found no defects with the performance of Autopilot during the crash. However, Tesla has made upgrades to its driver-assistance technology since the crash — although the company continues to face criticism and even a lawsuit over the upgrades.

Tesla has not yet returned SiliconBeat’s request for comment about the NTSB report.

A lawyer for Brown’s family told Reuters that the report should put to rest the rumors that Brown was watching a movie at the time of the crash. Jack Landskroner said the family is reviewing the NTSB report and has not sued Tesla.


Photo: The inside of a Tesla vehicle parked in a new Tesla showroom and service center in Red Hook, Brooklyn on July 5, 2016 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


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  • charlie hustle

    the fact is, people are using the ‘autopilot’ feature as an….autopilot! Gee, who could foresee THAT!?!

    • TheZip

      Can’t fix stupid. It isn’t advertised as either a self driving or autonomous driving feature. It’s is quantum leaps above simple adaptive cruise control but you are required to always be in control.

      This isn’t any different that the fools who will blindly drive off a cliff if GPS tell them to.

      These devices are tools not crutches. But of course many humans are too stupid to realize that.

      • John Stevens

        The AP in a plane is exactly what you said, a tool. The pilot (or driver) is required to monitor the vehicle and take immediately control if amiss. If an accident happens, don’t blame the AP.

        This accident is similar to Asiana 214 whose pilots watched as the perfectly functioning 777 they were supposedly flying crashed into the SFO seawall because they didn’t know how the AP (flight director) modes worked. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/b/175b7626-48a6-433a-be0c-e19617eec420

        • David Phillips

          And it’s much more dangerous in an automobile. A split second missed warning can make the difference between going off the road and into a ditch or flying through a red light into a busy intersection.

    • uluzi

      The feature needs a name change…like auto-assist, or driver-assist. “Autopilot” implies that the vehicle runs by itself in the way an airplane can in certain conditions…even if most people probably know that even in the air, an airplane canNOT fly completely on its own (from takeoff to landing), and I assume needs to be monitored throughout.

  • David Phillips

    Just wait until this technology is in the hands of everyone. People will be crashing and burning all over the place.

    But, hey, the auto-pilot tried to warn them…

    • JB

      And people are not doing that already with manual pilot?

  • OaktownCoug

    If you don’t want to drive call Uber. The only advantage I see in driverless cars is if someone is too old to renew their drivers license.