Investigators fault driver in Tesla Autopilot crash

WASHINGTON (AP) — Design limitations of the Tesla Model S’s Autopilot played a major role in the first known fatal crash of a highway vehicle operating under automated control systems, the National Transportation Safety Board Tuesday.

The board said the direct cause of the crash was an inattentive Tesla driver’s over reliance on technology and a truck driver who made a left-hand turn in front of the car. But the board also recommended that automakers incorporate safeguards that keep drivers’ attention engaged and that limit the use of automated systems to the conditions for which they were designed.

Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was traveling on a divided highway near Gainesville, Florida, using the Tesla’s automated driving systems when he was killed. Tesla had told Model S owners the automated systems should only be used on limited-access highways, which are primarily interstates. But the company didn’t incorporate protections against their use on other types of roads, the board found. Despite upgrades since the May 2016 crash, Tesla has still not incorporated such protections, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

“In this crash, Tesla’s system worked as designed, but it was designed to perform limited tasks in a limited range of environments,” he said. “Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed.”

The result, Sumwalt said, was a collision “that should never have happened.”

In a statement, Tesla said “we appreciate the NTSB’s analysis of last year’s tragic accident and we will evaluate their recommendations as we continue to evolve our technology.”