An official report published on Monday, June 19, states that the man killed while riding his Tesla Model S last year kept his hands off the wheel even when the vehicle's system issued repeated automated warnings not to.
NTSB Releases Report On Joshua Brown's Car Accident
The findings come from the National Transportation Safety Board. It looks into the death of former Navy SEAL Joshua Brown, who died as his Tesla Model S crashed into a semitrailer truck on a Florida highway in May 2016. The fatal accident made Brown the first recorded fatality involving a self-driving car.
Previously, reports said that Brown had been watching a movie at the time of the car accident, which Brown's family lawyer Jack Landskroner called "unequivocally false." As Reuters reports, Landskroner said the NTSB's findings should put that claim to rest. He also said that Brown's family has not taken any legal action against Tesla and was still looking into the board's report.
For those who can't recall, Brown's Model S vehicle collided with a truck last year, which was crossing the highway near Williston, Florida, killing Brown at the impact.
The NTSB report adds that during a 37-minute period where Brown was supposed to have his hands on the wheel, he apparently spent just 25 seconds doing so. Most of his trip had Autopilot enabled, and the system gave him seven warnings that said, "Hands Required Not Detected."
Six out of the seven warnings came with a chime sound notification before returning to "Hands Required Detected" for one- to three-second periods, according to the report.
A Tesla spokeswoman declined to comment directly on the NTSB report but referred inquiries to previous company statements about the accident. Tesla said in June 2016 that its Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash and that it notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration immediately.
Earlier this year, the NHTSA found no defect in the Model S, thereby not issuing a recall. It also found that Brown had ignored the vehicle's warnings to remain in control even when using the driver-assist function.
"Autopilot is by far the most advanced driver-assistance system on the road, but it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle and does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility," Tesla had said.
The board's next step is to issue a report on the cause of the car accident, along with possible recommendations to prevent a similar catastrophe from happening again in the future.
Questions On The Reliability Of Autopilot
Brown's death raised questions over the safety of Tesla's Autopilot mode on its electric vehicles, a feature which employs complex and advanced technology to navigate the road without human intervention. Questions about the reliability of self-driving technology were also raised, a crucial discussion given that market analysts believe that the autonomous driving industry is going to be worth tens of billions of dollars in the long run.
Brown's death also put forth the topic of whether self-driving technology could really replace human drivers.