NTSB: Driver Ignored Warnings, Did Not Hold Wheel in Fatal Tesla Crash

A man who died last year when his semi-autonomous Tesla Model S collided with a truck kept his hands off the steering wheel and apparently did not respond to automated warnings from the car to take the wheel, according to over 500 documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Monday.

The report found that over the “vast majority” of the 37-minute trip Joshua Brown, a former Navy SEAL, was not holding the steering wheel. He only did so for 25 seconds, the NTSB said. The report found that Brown also appeared to ignore numerous warnings to take hold of the wheel prior to the May 2016 crash near Williston, Fla.

The findings appear to take the blame away from Tesla, which has yet to comment on the NTSB report. The company did say last year that autopilot mode “does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility.”

The report is also good news for the nascent driverless car industry, which hopes to show that computers can drive safely for extended periods of time with limited human intervention.

The NTSB findings echo a report on the incident released last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At that time, Tesla founder Elon Musk called the report “very positive.”

According to the Reuters news agency, Brown family attorney Jack Landskroner said the NTSB documents disprove prior media reports that Brown was watching a movie when the crash occurred. He also said the family has yet to take legal action against Tesla, but would continue to review the NTSB documents.

In the wake of the incident, Tesla upgraded its autopilot mode making it harder to operate in hands-off position. The upgrade also prevents drivers from using autopilot mode if they fail to respond to computerized prompts from the system.

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