Tesla Autopilot vindicated in a triple Model S fatality as investigators deem driver impairment at fault
The high-speed crash of a Model S into construction equipment that caused the death of the driver and two passengers last May was not caused by an erring Autopilot, deemed the investigation. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration probes incidents where Tesla's autonomous driving system may have been engaged, and even issued an FSD-related recall not long ago, here Autopilot was vindicated.
The analysis of the Tesla Model S computer showed that Autopilot was not active prior to the crash and the driver was in full control of the vehicle. The investigators determined that the main cause for the deadly accident was driving the powerful Model S "in great excess of the speed limit."
Tesla cooperated fully with the Major Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) of the Newport Beach Police Department, other local agencies, and the NHTSA traffic experts. As with other fatal accidents, the Tesla crash investigation involved skid marks measurements, collecting scattered physical evidence, and tracking down witnesses for interview. According to the Newport Beach Police Lt. Eric Little who is in charge of MAIT:
It is challenging for our team to go out and deal with a loss of life as frequently as they do. It’s a traumatic event for everybody, and often we see stuff at collision scenes that most people shouldn’t see.
Tesla's Autopilot was ruled in the right, while the Newport Beach case may have been the result of a drug or alcohol impairment, according to the authorities as of Friday. The NHTSA sent its own team there, too, as the accident was one of 34 folded into an ongoing investigation of crashes that are suspect for activated driver assist systems at the end stages of a collision.