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“I was just shaking”—new documents reveal details of fatal Tesla crash

“I was just shaking”—new documents reveal details of fatal Tesla crash

The trailer sheared off the roof of Jeremy Banner's car, killing him instantly.
Enlarge / The trailer sheared off the roof of Jeremy Banner’s automotive, killing him immediately.

“It really looked like I had plenty of time to go across,” an anguished Florida truck driver stated in an interview transcript launched by the National Transportation Safety Board this week. Unfortunately, he was improper.

Richard Wood was driving a semi truck on the morning of Friday, March 1, 2019. He pulled onto Florida’s SR 7 from a driveway, desiring to make a left flip. But as he crossed to the alternative lane, a Tesla Model three belonging to Jeremy Banner crashed into the aspect of the truck. Banner’s Tesla went underneath Wood’s trailer, shearing off the roof and killing Banner.

The case attracted broad consideration as a result of Banner had engaged Tesla’s Autopilot know-how. Not solely that, the circumstances of Banner’s demise had been nearly an identical to the primary Autopilot-related demise within the United States: the demise of Josh Brown in 2016. Brown was additionally killed when Autopilot didn’t cease for a semi truck crossing in entrance of him on a Florida freeway.

The truck driver’s interview transcript was one of many documents the NTSB launched this week associated to 2 fatal crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot. I hope to undergo documents associated to the opposite crash, Walter Huang’s 2018 demise, within the coming days.

“That dude didn’t make it”

The documents about Banner’s case present quite a bit of new details about the circumstances of his demise. Based on video footage, the NTSB estimates that the truck entered the roadway in entrance of Banner’s automotive about four.5 seconds earlier than the crash. Banner was touring at nearly 70 miles per hour; the truck was touring about 10 miles per hour. Neither automobile slowed down or took different evasive actions throughout these four.5 seconds.

In reality, Wood says that originally he did not even understand fatal crash had occurred.

“I was going to take the left-hand lane and proceed on going north,” Wood stated in an interview with authorities final March. “It’s a very busy intersection… It’s one of them intersections where you wonder why there isn’t a traffic light. But I’ve done it a dozen times. I clearly thought I had plenty of time.”

The crash occurred just earlier than the solar got here up. Wood says he noticed two pairs of headlights approaching, however believed they had been far sufficient away that he may get throughout the intersection simply.

“It was dark and the cars looked like they was back further than what they was,” Wood stated.

Then Wood says he “felt a push against my trailer.” He acquired out of his truck and “looked at my trailer and I seen debris stuck in the side of the trailer and it had a scuff mark down the side of the trailer.” It was nonetheless darkish, he stated. “I thought I had been involved in a hit and run.”

In actuality, the momentum of Banner’s Model three carried the automobile far down the street—apparently to this point that Wood did not see it when he acquired out of his truck. Wood says it was only some minutes later, as he noticed the lights of emergency automobiles within the distance, that he realized the terrible reality.

“This guy in this pickup truck come up and goes, ‘Are you the guy that drives this tractor?’ I said ‘yeah.’ And he goes, ‘That dude didn’t make it.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He goes, ‘That guy—it sheared the whole roof off his car.'”

It was solely then, Wood says, that the fact of the state of affairs totally hit him. “I went and got in the truck and I sit there until the cops got there because I was just shaking,” he advised authorities.

No apparent distractions

Driver distraction is often a think about conditions like this, however the NTSB hasn’t recognized any apparent components impairing both driver. Wood says that he did not use his cellphone throughout that morning’s drive—a declare that appears to be backed up by cellphone data. He advised investigators that he hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since 2014.

Nor did investigators discover proof Banner was impaired or distracted. “Phone records indicate that the Tesla driver was not engaged in a phone conversation and was not texting at the time of the crash,” an NTSB investigator writes. “The records also indicate that the driver did not use his phone to text or call during the three mornings prior to the date of the crash.”

Data from Tesla signifies that Banner activated Autopilot’s traffic-aware cruise management characteristic 12.three seconds earlier than the fatal crash. He then activated Tesla’s Autosteer characteristic 9.9 seconds earlier than influence.

“Sensors in the Tesla did not detect the driver’s hands on the steering wheel 7.7 seconds before the crash,” the NTSB studies.

It’s a protected guess that Banner wasn’t trying on the street forward of the automobile in the previous few seconds of his life. If he had, he certainly would have observed a truck pulling out in entrance of his automobile. Even if he could not have totally stopped his automotive within the four.5 seconds the automotive was pulling in entrance of him, Banner definitely may have slowed the automobile down. Yet telemetry reveals that the automobile did not decelerate in any respect—suggesting that neither Banner nor the Autopilot software program realized crash was imminent.

Investigations into the 2016 Josh Brown crash revealed that (as my colleague Jonathan Gitlin wrote) “The machine learning algorithms that underpin AEB systems have only been trained to recognize the rear of other vehicles, not profiles or other aspects.” Meanwhile, some driver-assistance methods are designed to ignore stationary objects at excessive speeds, partly as a result of radar-based methods have bother distinguishing objects within the street from objects which might be merely close to the street. There have been a number of circumstances the place Autopilot has steered Teslas into parked automobiles in broad daylight. It’s not clear if these points had been a think about Banner’s demise, however we might be taught extra when the NTSB publishes its remaining report.

One factor driver-assistance methods can do is to power drivers to maintain their eyes on the street. Cadillac’s Super Cruise know-how does just that, utilizing a driver-facing digital camera to look at the place a driver is trying. If Banner’s Model three had had this characteristic, he may need observed the truck crossing in entrance of his path and stopped in time to save lots of his life.

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