The driver of a Tesla who fatally crashed in California in March did not have his hands on the steering wheel at the time of the accident, said a preliminary report from the National Traffic Safety Board on Thursday.
The report indicates what happened in the minutes and seconds before a 38-year-old man slammed a Tesla Model X into the crash cushion at the end of a freeway median and collided with two other vehicles. Up to the time of the accident, the driver was operating the car using Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system, Autopilot.
The system has been investigated by federal agencies before for its involvement in crashes.
The vehicle warned the driver with two visual alerts and one sound alert telling him to place his hands on the wheel more than 15 minutes prior to the crash, the NTSB said. The driver placed his hands on the wheel 3 times in the minute before the accident, for a total of 34 seconds. In the final 6 seconds, the system did not sense he had his hands at the wheel.
At 3 seconds prior to the crash, the car sped up from 62 miles per hour to 70.8 mph, the agency said.
A Tesla spokesperson referred CNBC back to Tesla’s blog on the accident, and declined to comment further.
“The reason this crash was so severe is because the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had been crushed in a prior accident without being replaced,” the blog said. “We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash.”
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