Tesla says Autopilot system not to blame for crash in Netherlands
THE HAGUE // Tesla Motors has said a Model S car involved in a fatal crash in the Netherlands was not operating in the company’s semi-autonomous autopilot mode and was travelling at high speed when it crashed.
The 53-year-old driver of the electric sedan died when his car smashed into a tree in the central Dutch town of Baarn and burst into flames on Wednesday.
Police are investigating the cause of the early morning accident in the town 40 kilometres south-east of Amsterdam.
Tesla said the car’s logs showed autopilot was not engaged at any time during the man’s trip, and that he was driving at more than 155 kph. The speed is consistent with the damage the car sustained from hitting the tree, the company said.
Tesla sent representatives to the scene of the accident.
“We are working with the authorities to establish the facts of the incident and offer our full cooperation,” the Palo Alto, California-based company said.
Ronald Boer, an emergency services spokesman, said firefighters did not recover the man’s body immediately because of fears of electrocution.
“The car was so badly damaged that the firefighters could not operate its security systems,” he said.
Tesla’s autopilot system has been in the spotlight since a Model S driver died in Florida in May. In that case, the car was operating in autopilot, which uses cameras, radar and computers to spot objects and stop it if it senses an impending collision. The system can also maintain a set speed and change lanes by itself.
Tesla has cautioned that the system, introduced last year, is not fully autonomous and drivers should be at the wheel and ready to take control.
The system allows the vehicle to automatically change lanes, manage speed and brake to avoid a collision. The system may be overridden by the driver.
Tesla could tell whether autopilot was engaged in both fatal crashes because it collects that data from customers. It uses the data to make improvements to the autopilot and other functions, which are beamed to customers through over-the-air software updates.
Tesla is also probing an incident in France last month when a Model S caught fire during a test drive in the south-western town of Bayonne.
US federal regulators also recorded two fires involving the Model S, one each in the states of Washington and Tennessee in 2013.
In both cases, the cars involved hit debris on the road that pierced the chassis and caused a battery fire.
* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse
Published: September 9, 2016 04:00 AM