Musk’s Claims Challenged About Absence of Autopilot in Texas Tesla Crash
Published on May 02, 2021 at 05:34AM
“Despite early claims by #Tesla #ElonMusk, Autopilot WAS engaged in tragic crash in The Woodlands,” tweeted U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady on Wednesday. (Adding “We need answers.”)
But maybe it depends on how you define Autopilot. CNN reports:
Tesla said Monday that one of Autopilot’s features was active during the April 17 crash that killed two men in Spring, Texas….
Lars Moravy, Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, said on the company’s earnings call Monday that Tesla’s adaptive cruise control was engaged and accelerated to 30 mph before the car crashed. Autopilot is a suite of driver assistance features, including traffic-aware cruise control and Autosteer, according to Tesla’s website… The North American owner’s manuals for the Model 3, Model S and Model X, all describe traffic-aware cruise control as an Autopilot feature. Tesla’s revelation may be at odds with the initial description of the crash from its CEO Elon Musk, who said two days after the crash that “data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled.”
Alternately, Forbes suggests there may just be some confusion, noting that earnings call included descriptions of tests Tesla performed on one of their own cars after the accident. So when they said adaptive cruise control “only accelerated the car to 30mph [over] the distance before the car crashed,” they could just have been referring to their own experiments. (Tesla also points out adaptive cruise control only engages when the driver is buckled — and disengages slowly if they’re unbuckled — and after the Texas crash all seat belts were unbuckled.)
Why so much confusion? Part of the problem may be, as CNN points out, that Tesla “generally does not engage with the professional news media.”
But The Drive shares another theory about the crash:
A relative of the deceased told a local news station that the owner allegedly “may have hopped in the back seat after backing the car out of the driveway.” Moments later, the car crashed when it failed to negotiate a turn at high speed.
Bryan Reimer, the associate director of the New England University Transportation Center at MIT, who studies driver assistance systems like Autopilot, said one of the plausible explanations for the crash is that the driver was confused and thought they had activated Autosteer, when only traffic-aware cruise control had been turned on. “The general understanding of Autopilot is that it’s one feature, but in reality it is two things bolted together,” said Reimer, referring to traffic-aware cruise control and Autosteer.
But according to the Washington Post, Tesla also disputes that theory:
Tesla executives on Monday claimed a driver was behind the wheel at the time of a fatal crash that killed two in suburban Houston this month, contradicting local authorities who have previously said they were certain no one was in that seat. Tesla made the statement on its earnings call Monday… Lars Moravy, the company’s vice president of vehicle engineering, said the steering wheel was “deformed,” indicating a driver’s presence at the time of the crash…
Mark Herman, constable for Harris County Precinct 4, told the station KHOU that police were “100 percent certain that no one was in the driver’s seat.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.