The driver behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S in self-driving mode when he died in a May 2016 accident was warned seven times to put his hands on the wheel, according to documents released last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
NHTSA uploaded more than 500 pages of documents related to the accident, which is believed to be the first involving a death with the car on self-driving mode. The documents range from studies on traffic patterns to interviews with the family of driver Joshua Brown and a report on what happened during the accident. One part of the report states that six times Brown was warned to put his hands on the wheel through “visual cues,” and then once with a “chime sound.”
In an accompanying press release, NHTSA said more documents will be added to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) docket. The agency warned that conclusions were to be made based on the raw data. The release states:
The docket contains only factual information collected by NTSB investigators; it does not provide analysis, findings, recommendations, or probable cause determinations. No conclusions about how or why the crash occurred should be drawn from the docket. Analysis, findings, recommendations, and probable cause determinations related to the crash will be issued by the board at a later date.
The crash took place May 7, 2016, in Florida. It appears that Brown’s car struck a tractor-trailer, and his car was traveling at 74 mph. The truck was meeting the Brown car on the highway. The tractor-trailer was turning left across the eastbound highway and onto a local road when it was hit by the Tesla, which went under the semitrailer. The Tesla then traveled alongside the roadway, hitting a drainage culvert and two wire fences before breaking a utility pole, rotating and stopping in the yard of a private home some 910 feet away from the semitrailer, the report states.
The roof of the Tesla was “sheared off” by the semitrailer. Brown died in the crash. There were no passengers in the Tesla. The driver of the semi-truck wasn’t injured, but for some reason it appears he refused to cooperate in the investigation. It should be noted that as part of this investigation, NHTSA in January said there was no safety defect involved in the Tesla that would require a recall.
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