Tesla: Driver’s Hands Not on Wheel When Accident Occurred

On Friday, Tesla Inc. announced that the computer logs from the Model X vehicle that was involved in a fatal accident last week showed that the driver of the vehicle did not have his hands on the vehicle’s steering wheel for the last six seconds prior to the accident.

On March 23, Wei Huang, who was 38, died when the vehicle he was in hit a California highway barrier and burst into flames. The vehicle’s damage was exacerbated by safety bulwark that was not replaced following a prior accident, said the company in a post it published on March 30.

The driver received both visual as well as audible hands-on warnings in the fatal drive, said Tesla. The driver had approximately 5 seconds and unobstructed view of about 150 meters of the highway’s concrete divider with the crash attenuator, but logs from the vehicle show that no action by the driver was taken.

The collision took place days after an Uber Technologies Inc. vehicle accident took the life of a pedestrian, which has raised new concerns over the features of self-driving and has sent ripples throughout the broader industry of autonomous vehicles.

The electric carmaker of Elon Musk lost over $5 billion of market cap last week and lost nearly a quarter of its value from February 23 forward amidst concerns over production of its electric vehicles, the crash, and recalls.

Tesla defended the Autopilot program it has in its blog post saying that the system made it over 3.7 times less likely a person in the U.S. would be involved in a deadly accident.

Statistics from the U.S. indicate that one automotive fatality is recorded for every 86 million miles driven across every type of vehicle, compared to over 320 million miles in vehicles that are equipped with the Autopilot hardware, said a Tesla representative.

Tesla wrote that none of that changes the horrific event like the accident or how much the company feels for the family and friends of its customer. That pushed back against the criticism Tesla received for its apparent lack of empathy for speaking of safety statistics to counter the attacks its program was receiving.

Tesla said all its cars now are made at the factory it has in Fremont, California, and have hardware needed for complete self-driving capability at a level of safety substantially higher than for a human driver.

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