Tesla Autopilot is an advanced driver-assistance system feature offered by Tesla that has lane centering, adaptive cruise control, self-parking, the ability to automatically change lanes, and the ability to summon the car to and from a garage or parking spot.
As an upgrade to the base Autopilot's capabilities, the company's stated intent is to offer full self-driving (FSD) at a future time, acknowledging that legal, regulatory, and technical hurdles must be overcome to achieve this goal.
- 1 History
- 2 Hardware
- 3 Driving features
- 4 Public debate
- 5 Incidents
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Elon Musk discussed the autopilot system publicly in 2013, noting "Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars.". Autopilot was first offered on October 9, 2014, for Tesla Model S, followed by the Model X upon its release. Autopilot was included within a "Tech Package" option. At that time Autopilot features included semi-autonomous drive and parking capabilities. Initial versions of Autopilot were developed in partnership with Israeli company Mobileye. Tesla and Mobileye ended their partnership in July 2016.
Software enabling Autopilot for the first time for customers was released in mid-October 2015 as part of Tesla's version 7.0. Software version 7.1 then removed some features to discourage customers from engaging in risky behavior and added Summon remote parking technology that can move the car forward and back under remote human control without a driver in the car.
On August 31, 2016, Elon Musk announced Autopilot 8.0, which processes radar signals to create a coarse point cloud similar to Lidar to help navigate in low visibility, and even to 'see' in front of the car ahead. Autopilot version 8 uses radar as the primary sensor instead of the camera. In November 2016, Autopilot 8.0 was updated to have a more noticeable signal to the driver that it is engaged and it requires drivers to touch the steering wheel more frequently. By November 2016, Autopilot had operated actively on hardware version 1 vehicles for 300 million miles (500 million km) and 1.3 billion miles (2 billion km) in shadow mode.
In October 2016, Tesla said all vehicles came with the necessary sensing and computing hardware, known as Hardware version 2 (HW2), for future full self driving. Tesla started to use the term "Enhanced Autopilot" to refer to hardware 2 capabilities over hardware 1. Enhanced Autopilot has the following partial self driving abilities: automatically change lanes without requiring driver input, transition from one freeway to another, exit the freeway when your destination is near and more.
Autopilot for HW2 cars came in February 2017. It included adaptive cruise control, autosteer on divided highways, autosteer on 'local roads’ up to a speed of 35 mph or a specified number of mph over the local speed limit to a maximum of 45 mph. Firmware version 8.1 for HW2 arrived in June 2017 adding a new driving-assist algorithm, full-speed braking and handling parallel and perpendicular parking. Later releases offered smoother lane-keeping and less jerky acceleration and deceleration.
HW 2.5 was released in July 2017, appearing in cars built from August 2017.
In April 2019, Tesla started releasing an update to Navigate on Autopilot, which does not require lane change confirmation, but does require the driver to have hands on the steering wheel. The car will navigate freeway interchanges on its own, but driver needs to supervise. The ability is available to those who have purchased Enhanced Autopilot or Full Self-Driving Capability.
|Hardware||Hardware 1||Hardware 2||Hardware 3|
|Date & Naming||2014 Autopilot||October 2016 Enhanced Autopilot Hardware 2.0[a]||August 2017 Hardware 2.5 (HW 2.5)[b]||April 2019 Full Self Driving computer (FSD)|
|Platform||MobilEye EyeQ3||NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 AI computing platform||Drive PX 2 with secondary node enabled.||FSD with two Tesla-designed processors.|
|Forward Radar||160 m (525 ft)||170 m (558 ft)|
|Front / Side Camera Color Filter Array||N/A||RCCC||RCCB|
|Forward Cameras||1 monochrome with unknown range||3:|
|Forward Looking Side Cameras||N/A|
|Rearward Looking Side Cameras||N/A|
|Rear View Camera||For human use, not for automation use||50 m (165 ft)|
|Sonars||12 surrounding with 5 m (16 ft) range||12 surrounding with 8 m (26 ft) range|
- All cars sold after October 2016 are equipped with Hardware 2.0, which includes eight cameras (covering a complete 360° around the car), one forward-facing radar, and twelve sonars (also covering a complete 360°). Buyers may choose an extra-cost option to purchase either the "Enhanced Autopilot" or "Full Self-Driving" to enable features. Front and side collision mitigation features are standard on all cars.
- Also known as "Hardware 2.1"; includes added computing and wiring redundancy for improved reliability.
|Functions||2014 Autopilot||2016 Enhanced Autopilot/Full Self-Driving Capability||2019 Autopilot||2019 Full Self-Driving Capability|
|Hardware 1||Hardware 2 & 2.5||Hardware 2 & 2.5 & 3.0||Hardware 3.0|
|Hands-on feature with limited Hands-Free On-Ramp to Off-Ramp for limited-access roads||Yes, except when driver wants to change lane.||Yes||Yes, except when driver wants to change lane.||Yes|
|TACC-Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (Smart/Adaptive Cruise Control)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Max speed||90 mph (150 km/h)||90 mph (150 km/h)||90 mph (150 km/h)||90 mph (150 km/h)|
|Autosteer||Yes||Yes, and in the future: tighter, more complex roads||Yes||Yes|
|Auto Lane Change||With confirmation: Driver initiates the lane changing signal when the traffic is safe (due to ultrasonic 16 foot limited range capability) then the system does the rest.||Yes.||No. Autosteer would be disabled with a manual lane change.||Yes.|
|Automatic Highway Interchanges||Manually by using turn signal||Yes||No. Manually only.||Yes|
|Navigate On Autopilot from On-ramp to Off-ramp||No||Yes||No. This function costs extra.||Yes|
|Autopark: Parallel and Perpendicular Parking||Yes||Yes||No. This function costs extra.||Yes|
remote automatic car retrieval, including automatic garage door opening and closing
|Yes||Yes||No. This function costs extra.||Yes|
Supervised 150-foot line-of-sight remote car retrieval.
|Lane Departure Warning||Yes. As Standard Option.||Yes. As Standard Option||Yes. As Standard Option||Yes. As Standard Option|
|Traffic Lights and Stop Signs Recognition and Response||No||No||No. This function costs extra.||Yes: Expected feature release by end of 2019|
|Automatic Driving on City Streets||No||No||No. This function costs extra.||Yes: Expected feature release by end of 2019|
|Full Self-Driving Capability||No||In future: Yes, with an additional fee for Full Self-Driving Capability. The Tesla car will be able to drive itself, automatically recharge at "cable bot"-equipped Superchargers and can use Parking Seek to find a parking space all without a driver.
Hardware needs to be upgraded to Hardware 3.0.
|No. This function costs extra.||Still "Yes" for unknown future activation as described in 2016.|
Vehicles manufactured after late September 2014 are equipped with a camera mounted at the top of the windshield, forward looking radar (supplied by Bosch) in the lower grille and ultrasonic acoustic location sensors in the front and rear bumpers that provide a 360-degree view around the car. The computer is the Mobileye EyeQ3. This equipment allows Model S to detect road signs, lane markings, obstacles, and other vehicles. Upgrading from Hardware 1 to Hardware 2 is not offered as it would require substantial work and cost.
Hardware 2, included in all vehicles manufactured after October 2016, includes an Nvidia Drive PX 2 GPU for CUDA based GPGPU computation. Tesla claimed that Hardware 2 provided the necessary equipment to allow full self-driving capability at SAE Level 5. The hardware includes eight surround cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors, in addition to forward-facing radar with enhanced processing capabilities. The Autopilot computer is replaceable to allow for future upgrades. The radar is claimed to be able to observe beneath and ahead of the vehicle in front of the Tesla; the radar can see vehicles through heavy rain, fog or dust. Tesla claimed that the hardware was capable of processing 200 frames per second.
When "Enhanced Autopilot" was enabled in February 2017 by the v8.0(17.5.36) software update, testing showed the system was limited to using one of the eight onboard cameras, the main forward-facing camera The v8.1 software update released a month later enabled a second camera, the narrow-angle forward-facing camera.
In August of 2017 it was announched that HW 2.5 included a secondary node to provide more computing power, additional wiring redundancy to slightly improve reliability, which enabled dashcam and sentry mode capabilities. 
Hardware 3 (FSD)
According to Tesla's director of AI Andrej Karpathy, as of Q3 2018, there have been large neural networks developed for Autopilot that cannot be used due to the lack of computational resources in current Tesla hardware. The next version of the hardware (3.0) will provide the resources to allow for improved accuracy in predictions.
HW 3.0 includes a custom Tesla-designed processor using application-specific integrated-circuit (ASIC) chips. Tesla claimed that the new system would process 2,300 frames per second, which is a 21x improvement in image processing compared to hardware 2.5 which is capable of 110 fps. The firm described it as a "neural network accelerator". The company claimed that 3.0 was necessary for "full self-driving", but not for "enhanced Autopilot" functions.
In October 2018, Tesla estimated first availability of Hardware 3 to be April 2019. Elon Musk stated that customers who purchased the Full Self-Driving (FSD) package will be eligible for an upgrade to HW 3.0 without cost.
Tesla requires operators to monitor the vehicle at all times, just as the Federal Aviation Administration requires pilots to monitor aircraft on autopilot. Autopilot includes multiple capabilities, including adaptive cruise control, lane centering and lane departure warning.
Autopilot-enabled cars receive Autopilot software updates wirelessly, the same as all other Tesla software updates.
Adaptive cruise control
Autopilot has the ability to follow another car, maintaining a safe distance from it as it speeds up and slows down. It can observe a second vehicle in front of the vehicle that it is following as well as differentiate between pedestrians, bicyclists/motorcyclists, small cars, and large SUVs/trucks. It also slows on tight curves, on interstate ramps, and when a car crosses the road in front of it. It can be enabled at any speed between 18 mph and 90 mph. By default, it sets the limit at the current speed limit plus/minus any driver-specified offset, then adjusting speed according to changes in speed limits.
Autopilot alerts the driver under various circumstances, such as a surprising situation on the road or excessive inattention by the driver. If the driver dismisses three audio warnings within an hour, Autopilot is disabled until the car is parked. This is to prevent experienced drivers from excessive reliance on built-in safety features. At speeds under 8 mph on divided highways, Autopilot functions indefinitely without the driver's hands on the wheel. Under 45 mph free hands are allowed for five minutes, unless the car detects lateral acceleration. Above 45 mph free hands are allowed for three minutes if following another vehicle or one minute without following a car.
Autopark drives the car into a parking spot, while Summon drives it out. Configuration settings control maximum distance, side clearance and bumper clearance. This feature activates Homelink to open and close garage doors and it is available using the fob or the Tesla mobile app. As of March 2017, Summon was available in "beta" for HW2. Controls include bumper, side clearance and summon distance.
Autosteer steers the car to remain in whatever lane it is in (known as lane-keeping). With HW1, it is also able to safely change lanes as directed by a tap of the turn signal. As of May 2017, HW2 is limited to 90 mph (145 km/h) on highway roads and the former 35 mph (56 km/h) speed limit on non-highway roads was removed, instead limiting to five over the speed limit or 45 mph (72 km/h) if no speed limit is detected.
The Autopilot can detect a potential front or side collision with another vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian within a distance of 525 feet (160 m), if one is found it sounds a warning. Autopilot has automatic emergency braking that detects objects that may hit the car and applies the brakes. The car may also automatically swerve out of the way to prevent fast moving collisions. Autopilot also can automatically adjust the high/low beam headlights as the nighttime lighting changes or if a car is detected in the high beams.
Front-facing cameras detect speed limit signs on AP1 vehicles and display the current limit on the dashboard or center display. Limits are compared against GPS data if no signs are present or if vehicle is AP 2.0 or AP 2.5.
A feature of HW2+[clarification needed] vehicles with Enhanced Autopilot (moved to Full-Self Driving in early 2019), allows the vehicle to do automatic lane changes, move to more appropriate lane based on speed, exit freeway, and navigate freeway interchanges. Originally in October 2018, the feature required driver confirmation,[clarification needed] but later in April 2019, an automatic option was added.
Regulation and liability
Some industry experts have raised questions about the legal status of autonomous driving in the U.S. and whether Tesla owners would violate current state regulations when using the Autopilot function. The few states that have passed laws allowing autonomous cars on the road, limit their use for testing purposes; not for use by the general public. Also, there are questions about the liability for autonomous cars in case there is a mistake. A Tesla spokesman said there is "nothing in our autopilot system that is in conflict with current regulations." "We are not getting rid of the pilot. This is about releasing the driver from tedious tasks so they can focus and provide better input." Google's director of self-driving cars said he does not think there is a regulatory block as long as the self-driving vehicle met crash-test and other safety standards. A spokesman for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that "any autonomous vehicle would need to meet applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards" and the NHTSA "will have the appropriate policies and regulations in place to ensure the safety of this type of vehicles."
Tesla's Autopilot with Hardware version 1 (HW1) can be classified as somewhere between levels 2 and 3 under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) five levels of vehicle automation. At this level, the car can act autonomously but requires the driver to be prepared to take control at a moment's notice. HW1 is suitable only on limited-access highways, and sometimes will fail to detect lane markings and disengage itself. In urban driving the system will not read traffic signals or obey stop signs. This system also does not detect pedestrians or cyclists, and while AP1 detects motorcycles, there has been two instances of AP rear-ending motorcycles.
Tesla's Autopilot was the subject of a class action suit brought in 2017 that claimed the second-generation Enhanced Autopilot system is "dangerously defective." The suit was settled in 2018; owners who had paid US$5,000 (equivalent to $5,220 in 2018) in 2016 and 2017 to equip their cars with the updated Autopilot software were compensated between US$20 and US$280 for the delay in implementing Autopilot 2.0.
According to Elon Musk, "We really designed the Model S to be a very sophisticated computer on wheels. Tesla is a software company as much as it is a hardware company. A huge part of what Tesla is, is a Silicon Valley software company. We view this the same as updating your phone or your laptop." Full autonomy is “really a software limitation: The hardware exists to create full autonomy, so it’s really about developing advanced, narrow AI for the car to operate on.“
The Autopilot development focus is on "increasingly sophisticated neural nets that can operate in reasonably sized computers in the car”. According to Musk, "the car will learn over time", including from other cars.
Early data after 47 million miles of driving in Autopilot mode shows the probability of an accident is at least 50% lower when using Autopilot. During the investigation into the fatal crash of May 2016 in Williston, Florida, NHTSA released a preliminary report in January 2017 stating "the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.":10 However, in 2019, Quality Control Systems released an independent report analyzing the same data, stating the NHTSA conclusion was "not well-founded". Quality Control Systems' analysis of the data showed the crash rate (measured in the rate of airbag deployments per million miles of travel) actually increased from 0.76 to 1.21 after the installation of Autosteer.:9
Behavior and anecdotes
Ars Technica notes that the brake system tends to initiate later than some drivers expect. One driver claimed that Tesla's Autopilot failed to brake, resulting in collisions. Tesla pointed out that the driver deactivated the cruise control of the car prior to the crash. Ars Technica also notes that the lane changes are semi-automatic; the car may auto lane change without any driver input if the vehicle detects slow moving cars or if it is required to stay on route but the driver must show the car that he or she is paying attention by touching the steering wheel before the car makes the change.
Autopilot potentially saved the life of a pedestrian in Washington, D.C. on the night of July 17, 2016, and played a pivotal role in a medical emergency involving 37-year-old Joshua Neally that same month. Neally was driving his Tesla Model X when he suffered a pulmonary embolism that caused intense panic and rendered him incapable of driving. Neally used Autopilot to drive most of the highway to a local hospital. At the off-ramp, Neally took control of the car and drove to the emergency room.
Handan, China (January 20, 2016)
On January 20, 2016, the driver of a Tesla Model S in Handan, China was killed when their car crashed into a stationary truck. The Tesla was following a car in the far left lane of a multi-lane highway; the car in front moved to the right lane to avoid a truck stopped on the left shoulder, and the Tesla, which the driver's father believes was in Autopilot mode, did not slow before colliding with the stopped truck. According to footage captured by a dashboard camera, the stationary street sweeper on the left side of the expressway partially extended into the far left lane, and the driver did not appear to respond to the unexpected obstacle.
In September 2016, the media reported the driver's family had filed a lawsuit in July against the Tesla dealer who sold the car. The family's lawyer stated the suit was intended "to let the public know that self-driving technology has some defects. We are hoping Tesla, when marketing its products, will be more cautious. Don’t just use self-driving as a selling point for young people." Tesla released a statement which said they "have no way of knowing whether or not Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash" since the car telemetry could not be retrieved remotely due to damage caused by the crash. Telemetry was recorded locally to a SD card and was not given to Tesla, who provided a decoding key to a third party for independent review. Tesla added that "while the third-party appraisal is not yet complete, we have no reason to believe that Autopilot on this vehicle ever functioned other than as designed."
Williston, Florida (May 7, 2016)
The first publicized fatal accident involving a Tesla engaged in Autopilot mode took place in Williston, Florida, on May 7, 2016. The driver was killed in a crash with an 18-wheel tractor-trailer. By late June 2016, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a formal investigation into the fatal autonomous accident, working with the Florida Highway Patrol. According to the NHTSA, preliminary reports indicate the crash occurred when the tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla at an intersection on a non-controlled access highway, and the car failed to apply the brakes. The car continued to travel after passing under the truck’s trailer. The diagnostic log of the Tesla indicated it was traveling at a speed of 74 mi/h (119 km/h) when it collided with and traveled under the trailer, which was not equipped with a side underrun protection system.:12 The underride collision sheared off the Tesla's glasshouse, destroying everything above the beltline, and caused fatal injuries to the driver.:6–7; 13 Approximately nine seconds after colliding with the trailer, the Tesla traveled another 886.5 feet (270.2 m) and came to rest after colliding with two chain-link fences and a utility pole.:7; 12
The NHTSA's preliminary evaluation was opened to examine the design and performance of any automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash, which involves a population of an estimated 25,000 Model S cars. On July 8, 2016, the NHTSA requested Tesla Inc. to hand over to the agency detailed information about the design, operation and testing of its Autopilot technology. The agency also requested details of all design changes and updates to Autopilot since its introduction, and Tesla's planned updates scheduled for the next four months.
According to Tesla, "neither autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied." The car attempted to drive full speed under the trailer, "with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S." Tesla also stated that this was Tesla’s first known Autopilot-related death in over 130 million miles (208 million km) driven by its customers while Autopilot was activated. According to Tesla there is a fatality every 94 million miles (150 million km) among all type of vehicles in the U.S. It is estimated that billions of miles will need to be traveled before Tesla Autopilot can claim to be safer than humans with statistical significance (although fewer than billions of miles will be needed if Tesla Autopilot is more dangerous). Researchers say that Tesla and others need to release more data on the limitations and performance of automated driving systems if self-driving cars are to become safe and understood enough for mass market use.
The truck's driver told the Associated Press that he could hear a Harry Potter movie playing in the crashed car, and said the car was driving so quickly that "he went so fast through my trailer I didn't see him." "It was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road." According to the Florida Highway Patrol, they found in the wreckage an aftermarket portable DVD player. It is not possible to watch videos on the Model S touchscreen display. A laptop computer was recovered during the post-crash examination of the wreck, along with an adjustable vehicle laptop mount attached to the front passenger's seat frame. The NHTSA concluded the laptop was probably mounted and the driver may have been distracted at the time of the crash.:17–19; 21
In July 2016, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced it had opened a formal investigation into the fatal accident while Autopilot was engaged. The NTSB is an investigative body that only has the power to make policy recommendations. An agency spokesman said, "It's worth taking a look and seeing what we can learn from that event, so that as that automation is more widely introduced we can do it in the safest way possible." The NTSB opens annually about 25 to 30 highway investigations. In September 2017, the NTSB released its report, determining that "the probable cause of the Williston, Florida, crash was the truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way to the car, combined with the car driver’s inattention due to overreliance on vehicle automation, which resulted in the car driver’s lack of reaction to the presence of the truck. Contributing to the car driver’s overreliance on the vehicle automation was its operational design, which permitted his prolonged disengagement from the driving task and his use of the automation in ways inconsistent with guidance and warnings from the manufacturer."
Collision Between a Car Operating With Automated Vehicle Control Systems and a Tractor-Semitrailer Truck Near Williston, Florida | May 7, 2017 | Accident Report NTSB/HAR-17/02 PB2017-102600:33
In January 2017, the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigations (ODI) released a preliminary evaluation, finding that the driver in the crash had seven seconds to see the truck and identifying no defects in the Autopilot system; the ODI also found that the Tesla car crash rate dropped by 40 percent after Autosteer installation, but later also clarified that it did not assess the effectiveness of this technology or whether it was engaged in its crash rate comparison. The NHTSA Special Crash Investigation team published its report in January 2018. According to the report, for the drive leading up to the crash, the driver engaged Autopilot for 37 minutes and 26 seconds, and the system provided 13 "hands not detected" alerts, to which the driver responded after an average delay of 16 seconds.:24 The report concluded "Regardless of the operational status of the Tesla’s ADAS technologies, the driver was still responsible for maintaining ultimate control of the vehicle. All evidence and data gathered concluded that the driver neglected to maintain complete control of the Tesla leading up to the crash.":25
Culver City, California (January 22, 2018)
On January 22, 2018, a Tesla Model S crashed into a fire truck parked on the side of the I-405 freeway in Culver City, California, while traveling at a speed exceeding 50 mph (80 km/h) and the driver survived with no injuries. The driver told the Culver City Fire Department that he was using Autopilot. The fire truck and a California Highway Patrol vehicle were parked diagonally across the left emergency lane and high-occupancy vehicle lane of the southbound 405, blocking off the scene of an earlier accident, with emergency lights flashing.
According to a post-accident interview, the driver stated he was drinking coffee, eating a bagel, and maintaining contact with the steering wheel while resting his hand on his knee.:3 During the 30-mile (48 km) trip, which lasted 66 minutes, the Autopilot system was engaged for slightly more than 29 minutes; of the 29 minutes, hands were detected on the steering wheel for only 78 seconds in total. Hands were detected applying torque to the steering wheel for only 51 seconds over the nearly 14 minutes immediately preceding the crash.:9 The Tesla had been following a lead vehicle in the high-occupancy vehicle lane at approximately 21 mph (34 km/h); when the lead vehicle moved to the right to avoid the fire truck, approximately three or four seconds prior to impact, the Tesla's traffic-aware cruise control system began to accelerate the Tesla to its preset speed of 80 mph (130 km/h). When the impact occurred, the Tesla had accelerated to 31 mph (50 km/h).:10 The Autopilot system issued a forward collision warning half a second before the impact, but did not engage the automatic emergency braking (AEB) system, and the driver did not manually intervene by braking or steering. Because Autopilot requires agreement between the radar and visual cameras to initiate AEB, the system was challenged due to the specific scenario (where a lead vehicle detours around a stationary object) and the limited time available after the forward collision warning.:11
Several news started reporting that Autopilot may not detect stationary vehicles at highway speeds and it cannot detect some objects. Raj Rajkumar, who studies autonomous driving systems at Carnegie Mellon University, believes the radars used for Autopilot are designed to detect moving objects, but are "not very good in detecting stationary objects". Both NTSB and NHTSA dispatched teams to investigate the crash. Hod Lipson, director of Columbia University's Creative Machines Lab, faulted the diffusion of responsibility concept: "If you give the same responsibility to two people, they each will feel safe to drop the ball. Nobody has to be 100%, and that's a dangerous thing."
In August 2019, the NTSB released its accident brief for the accident. HAB-19-07 concluded the driver of the Tesla was at fault due to "inattention and overreliance on the vehicle's advanced driver assistance system", but added the design of the Tesla Autopilot system "permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task".:13–14 After the earlier crash in Williston, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation to "[d]evelop applications to more effectively sense the driver's level of engagement and alert the driver when engagement is lacking while automated vehicle control systems are in use." Among the manufacturers that the recommendation was issued to, only Tesla has failed to issue a response.:12–13
Mountain View, California (March 23, 2018)
On March 23, 2018, a second U.S. Autopilot fatality occurred in Mountain View, California. The crash occurred just before 9:30 A.M. on southbound US 101 at the carpool lane exit for southbound Highway 85, at a concrete barrier where the left-hand carpool lane offramp separates from 101. After the Model X crashed into the narrow concrete barrier, it was struck again by two following vehicles, and then it caught on fire.
Both the NHTSA and NTSB are investigating the March 2018 crash. Another driver of a Model S demonstrated that Autopilot appeared to be confused by the road surface marking in April 2018. The gore ahead of the barrier is marked by diverging solid white lines (a vee-shape); the Autosteer feature of the Model S appeared to mistakenly use the left-side white line instead of the right-side white line as the lane marking for the far left lane, which would have led the Model S into the same concrete barrier had the driver not taken control. Ars Technica concluded "that as Autopilot gets better, drivers could become increasingly complacent and pay less and less attention to the road."
In a corporate blog post, Tesla noted the impact attenuator separating the offramp from US 101 had been previously crushed and not replaced prior to the Model X crash on March 23. The post also stated that Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash, and the driver's hands had not been detected manipulating the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash. Vehicle data showed the driver had five seconds and 150 metres (490 ft) "unobstructed view of the concrete divider, [...] but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken." The NTSB investigation had been focused on the damaged impact attenuator and the vehicle fire after the collision, but after it was reported the driver had complained about the Autopilot functionality, the NTSB announced it would also investigate "all aspects of this crash including the driver’s previous concerns about the autopilot." A NTSB spokesman stated the organization "is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla". Elon Musk dismissed the criticism, tweeting that NTSB was "an advisory body" and that "Tesla releases critical crash data affecting public safety immediately & always will. To do otherwise would be unsafe." In response, NTSB removed Tesla as a party to the investigation on April 11.
NTSB released a preliminary report on June 7, 2018, which provided the recorded telemetry of the Model X and other factual details. Autopilot was engaged continuously for almost nineteen minutes prior to the crash. In the minute before the crash, the driver's hands were detected on the steering wheel for 34 seconds in total, but his hands were not detected for the six seconds immediately preceding the crash. Seven seconds before the crash, the Tesla began to steer to the left and was following a lead vehicle; four seconds before the crash, the Tesla was no longer following a lead vehicle; and during the three seconds before the crash, the Tesla's speed increased to 70.8 mi/h (113.9 km/h). The driver was wearing a seatbelt, and was pulled from the vehicle before it was engulfed in flames.
The crash attenuator had been previously damaged on March 12 and had not been replaced at the time of the Tesla crash. The driver involved in the accident on March 12 collided with the crash attenuator at more than 75 mph (121 km/h) and was treated for minor injuries; in comparison, the driver of the Tesla collided with the collapsed attenuator at a slower speed and died from blunt force trauma. After the accident on March 12, the California Highway Patrol failed to report the collapsed attenuator to Caltrans as required, Caltrans was not aware of the damage until March 20, and the attenuator was not replaced until March 26 because a spare was not immediately available.:1–4 This specific attenuator had required repair more often than any other crash attenuator in the Bay Area, and maintenance records indicated that repair of this attenuator was delayed by up to three months after being damaged.:4–5 As a result, the NTSB released a Safety Recommendation Report on September 9, 2019, asking Caltrans to develop and implement a plan to guarantee timely repair of traffic safety hardware.
South Jordan, Utah (May 11, 2018)
In the evening of May 11, 2018, a Tesla Model S with Autopilot engaged crashed into the rear of a fire truck that was stopped in the southbound lane at a red light in South Jordan, Utah, at the intersection of SR-154 and SR-151. The Tesla was moving at an estimated 60 mi/h (97 km/h) and did not appear to brake or attempt to avoid the impact, according to witnesses. The driver of the Tesla, who survived the impact with a broken foot, admitted she was looking at her phone before the crash. The NHTSA dispatched investigators to South Jordan. According to telemetry data recovered after the crash, the driver repeatedly did not touch the wheel, including during the 80 seconds immediately preceding the crash, and only touched the brake pedal "fractions of a second" before the crash. The driver was cited by police for "failure to keep proper lookout". The Tesla had slowed to 55 mi/h (89 km/h) to match a vehicle ahead of it, and after that vehicle changed lanes, accelerated to 60 mi/h (97 km/h) in the 3.5 seconds preceding the crash.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk criticized news coverage of the South Jordan crash, tweeting that "a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in [the] past year get almost no coverage", additionally pointing out that "[a]n impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death", but later conceding that Autopilot "certainly needs to be better & we work to improve it every day". In September 2018, the driver of the Tesla sued the manufacturer, alleging the safety features designed to "ensure the vehicle would stop on its own in the event of an obstacle being present in the path ... failed to engage as advertised." According to the driver, the Tesla failed to provide an audible or visual warning before the crash.
Delray Beach, Florida (March 1, 2019)
In the morning of March 1, 2019, a Tesla Model 3 driving southbound on US 441/SR 7 in Delray Beach, Florida struck a semi-trailer truck that was making a left-hand turn to northbound SR 7 out of a private driveway at Pero Family Farms; the Tesla underrode the trailer, and the force of the impact sheared off the greenhouse of the Model 3, resulting in the death of the 50-year-old Tesla driver. The driver of the Tesla had engaged Autopilot approximately 10 seconds before the collision and preliminary telemetry showed the vehicle did not detect the driver's hands on the wheel for the eight seconds immediately preceding the collision. The driver of the semi-trailer truck was not cited. Both the NHTSA and NTSB dispatched investigators to the scene.
In May 2019 the NTSB issued a preliminary report that determined that neither the driver of the Tesla or the Autopilot system executed evasive maneuvers. The circumstances of this crash were similar to the fatal underride crash of a Tesla Model S in 2016 near Williston, Florida; in its 2017 report detailing the investigation of that earlier crash, NTSB recommended that Autopilot be used only on limited-access roads (i.e., freeway),:33 which Tesla did not implement.
Moscow, Russia (August 10, 2019)
On the night of August 10, 2019, a Tesla Model 3 driving in the left-hand lane on the Moscow Ring Road in Moscow, Russia crashed into a parked tow truck with a corner protruding into the lane and subsequently burst into flames. According to the driver, the vehicle was traveling at the speed limit of 100 km/h (62 mph) with Autopilot activated; he also claimed his hands were on the wheel, but was not paying attention at the time of the crash. All occupants were all able to exit the vehicle before it caught on fire; they were transported to the hospital. Injuries included a broken leg (driver) and bruises (his children).
The force of the collision was enough to push the tow truck forward into the central dividing wall, as recorded by a surveillance camera. Passersby also captured several videos of the fire and explosions after the accident, these videos also shows the tow truck that the Tesla crashed into had been moved, indicating the fire within the Model 3 seemed to have happened after some time.
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In the 4th quarter, we registered one accident for every 2.91 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged. For those driving without Autopilot, we registered one accident for every 1.58 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 436,000 miles.
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