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19 July 2017

Tesla Crash Cleared By Driver Who’d First Blamed Autopilot

A Tesla driver who initially blamed its Autopilot semi-autonomouus system for a collision that injured five people has had a change of mind.

The driver is David Clark, 58, and news this week quickly went out that he’d assigned responsibility to the car’s technology for the rollover last Saturday night in Hawick, Minn. The 2016 Model S ended up on its roof in a marsh with all five occupants sustaining minor injuries.

Clark had told police that the car accelerated after he’d engaged Autopilot, throwing it off the roadway where it overturned in the marsh.

The Associated Press was able to obtain a report Monday where the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office had received an email from Clark clarifying the crash incident.

Clark said he’d been confused in making the first report to the sheriff’s office. After later talking to passengers who’d been in the crash, his perception changed with Autopilot having been disengaged by stepping on the accelerator before the crash started.

“I then remember looking up and seeing the sharp left turn which I was accelerating into. I believe we started to make the turn but then felt the car give way and lose its footing like we hit loose gravel,” Clark wrote in the email to the Sheriff’s Office.

Tesla’s Autopilot function is considered an SAE Level 2 autonomous system. The electric car is able to accelerate and steer on its own, but the driver is expected to remain alert and intervene if necessary.

Ever since the fatal crash of a Tesla driver in Florida last year, Autopilot has been modified with more controls and driver warnings. Drivers are given three separate warnings to put their hands back on the wheel if they remove them for a short length of time. The Autopilot system will shut off if the warning is ignored.

When the Autopilot system is switched on, drivers are sent reminders to remain engaged and be prepared to take the wheel.

Tesla said it’s investigating the incident and will cooperate with authorities on the matter.

SEE ALSO:  Tesla Crash Part of Ongoing Debate Over How Much Control Humans Should Retain in Autonomous Vehicles

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in January it found no safety defects in the system from the Florida crash in 2016. The agency decided against issuing a recall of Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot.

NHTSA found in its own study that in the Florida incident and other collisions, many times, driver error was to blame.

The safety agency didn’t comment on whether it would be investigating the Minnesotata crash.

Los Angeles Times

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