NTSB: Tesla driver did not have hands on wheel before fatal crash

Tesla Model X sped up in Autopilot mode seconds before fatal crash, according to NTSB

While the driver wasn't keeping his hands on the steering wheel, it appears the Autopilot system steered the crossover into the concrete barrier.

Huang was still belted into the driver's seat but bystanders rescued him from the vehicle before it was consumed by flames.

The crash sparked a national debate over the challenges firefighters face when responding to electric vehicle crashes as well as whether Tesla owners can trust their vehicles' autopilot system.

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According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Huang complained to his family earlier that his 2017 Tesla Model X had attempted to veer into the barrier while on Autopilot before. At 7 seconds, the Model X began moving left while still following a lead vehicle. There was no braking or evasive steering detected prior to impact.

The NTSB's preliminary report states that all "aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB determines the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes". And last month, a Tesla Model S in autopilot mode hit a stopped fire department vehicle in Salt Lake City. The Autopilot's cruise control system, which is created to match the speed of a slower vehicle ahead of it, was set at 120 km/h.

The preliminary report didn't include conclusions about what caused the crash.

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The NTSB report offerssome details about the moments leading up to the fatal impact: The Model X's autopilot was set to keep the car's speed at 75 miles per hour. Federal investigators say the Tesla using the company’s semi-autonomous driving system accelerated just before crashing into a California freeway barrier, killing its driver.

The crash attenuator was already severely damaged from a prior traffic incident, and this likely increased the amount of damage suffered by the Tesla and by its driver, who later succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital. The firetruck was unoccupied and no injuries were claimed by anyone at the crash scene, authorities said.

In context: Tesla has drawn quite a bit of heat lately due to numerous crashes that have occurred with Autopilot engaged. But once the autopilot mode sensed that vehicle no longer was in front of the auto, the Tesla began accelerating, and continued speeding up until impact near the exit to State Highway 85. Tesla vehicles also have an automatic emergency braking feature that is created to slow a vehicle to avoid or lessen the impact of a collision. Firefighters initially extinguished a fire on the freeway, but several hours later at an impound lot, the battery was giving off smoke. Then it reignited five days after the March 23 crash, and firefighters again had to extinguish it.

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