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Tesla admits Autopilot was on during latest Model X accident

Lucas Mearian | July 14, 2016
According to reports,the second accident took place less than two weeks after Tesla revealed its Autopilot feature.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has opened an investigation into why Tesla took nearly two months to publicly disclose a fatal crash that took place May 7, according to a Wall Street Journal report this week.

Tesla said in a statement on Monday that it has not received any communication from the SEC regarding an investigation. The SEC today declined to comment when contacted by Computerworld.

Tesla Model X Flickr

A Tesla Model X.

While Tesla didn't initially publically disclose the fatal crash, which took place in Florida and killed 40-year-old Joshua Brown, nine days after it took place it did report it to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); the NHTSA is currently conducting its own investigation into the incident.

The NHTSA is also looking into another accident that took place in Pennsylvania on July 1 involving a Model X in order to determine if Autopilot was on at the time. State police said the Model X initially struck a guard rail on the turnpike and then veered across several lanes and into the median, where it rolled onto its roof in the middle highway. The driver and a passenger were injured, according to the police report.

Tesla said that "based on the information we have now, we have no reason to believe that Autopilot had anything to do with this accident."

Tesla has emphasized that the Autopilot feature, which has lane-keeping and automatic braking capabilities -- among others -- is a driving-assist feature and is not intended to be used as a fully autonomous vehicle technology.

Musk and Tesla have taken heat in some published opinion pieces that called into question the ethics of not reporting the fatal crash sooner.

Tesla autopilot 

Tesla's Autopilot has automatic steering, lane keeping and automatic lane change.

"The company and its founder knew about the fatal crash when it sold $2B of stock in May," a Fortune article stated.

A recent Tesla SEC filing stated it could "become subject to product liability claims, which could harm our financial condition and liquidity if we are not able to successfully defend or insure against such claims."

In a blog post, Musk responded to the Fortune article, calling it "fundamentally incorrect" and a mischaracterization of Tesla's latest filing with the SEC.

Tesla, which retrieved log data from the vehicle, stated in a June 30 blog that the Model S's autopilot sensors failed to detect the white semi-truck as it turned in front of a sedan with a bright sky behind it. The Model S's top was sheered away as it traveled under the truck and continued on for several hundred yards.


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