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July 13, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 11:05am

Second Tesla car crash blamed on driver as electric car-maker defends self-driving autopilot

News: Follows the death of Joshua Brown in fatal car crash blamed on autopilot feature. Second Tesla car crash blamed on driver as electric car-maker defends self-driving autopilot

By Ellie Burns

Tesla has today admitted that its autopilot feature has been involved in a second car crash, although the electric carmaker was quick to deny blame and stated that the autopilot function was being used incorrectly at the time of the crash.

This incident follows an earlier car crash in which the driver of the car died after colliding with a lorry. The death of Tesla driver Joshua Brown was blamed on the Model S Car’s inability to recognise "the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky" that had driven across the car's path. As media reacted, labelling the tragic loss as the first death caused by self-driving technology, Tesla said in a statement:

"The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S."

With the fatal crash currently under investigation, this second incident will direct further scrutiny towards Tesla’s autopilot feature. The autopilot automatically changes lanes and reacts to traffic, with Tesla stating in the past that "customers using autopilot are statistically safer than those not using it at all".

The latest crash saw a Model X car hit wooden rails next to a two-lane road near Cardwell, Montana. However, Tesla told the BBC that the driver was ultimately to blame, saying:

"The data suggests that the driver's hands were not on the steering wheel, as no force was detected on the steering wheel for over two minutes after autosteer was engaged – even a very small amount of force, such as one hand resting on the wheel, will be detected.

"This is contrary to the terms of use that are agreed to when enabling the feature and the notification presented in the instrument cluster each time it is activated.

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"As road conditions became increasingly uncertain, the vehicle again alerted the driver to put his hands on the wheel.

"He did not do so, and shortly thereafter the vehicle collided with a post on the edge of the roadway."

This latest incident may serve to further damage Tesla’s reputation, with shares in the company dropping 3% after the US government said it would investigate the first, fatal, crash.


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