Tesla car using ‘Autopilot’ accelerated before fatal crash: officials

A Tesla Model X using “autopilot” technology accelerated and failed to properly detect a highway barrier in the seconds before a fatal one-car accident in Mountain View, California, last March, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary findings released Thursday.

The report said the Tesla vehicle’s driver, a 38-year-old man, did not have his hands on the steering wheel in the six seconds before the car slammed into a safety barrier called a crash attenuator, which separated the highway’s carpool lane from an off-ramp. The car sped up from 62 mph to 70.8 mph within three seconds of impact and did not brake or take evasive steering action.

The man, identified as Apple engineer Wei “Walter” Huang, later died from injuries sustained in the crash. The report found that the vehicle’s autopilot system was active for the last 18 minutes and 55 seconds of the ride.

Tesla did not immediately respond to FOX Business’s request for comment on the report. However, the company said in a statement last March that the driver had failed to take evasive action and that existing damage to the safety barrier played a role in the fatal outcome. The NTSB’s report acknowledged that the barrier was damaged before the crash.

Tesla shares fell more than 1% in trading Thursday.

Disagreements between Tesla and the NTSB over the probe culminated in April when safety officials said they had revoked the electric car maker’s status as an official party to the investigation. The agency’s chairman, Robert Sumwalt, said Tesla erred by making details about the investigation public before it could be confirmed by the NTSB.

In response, Tesla claimed it had withdrawn from the probe due to concerns about the NTSB’s handling of the case, including its dealings with the media. At the time, a company spokesperson said Tesla intended to file an official complaint with the federal government.

The NTSB is investigating four crashes involving Tesla vehicles since last year, Reuters reported.