In new Model X crash, Tesla suggests Autopilot not to blame

With Autopilot's safety in question, Tesla has distanced the semi-autonomous driver assistance technology's role in a crash last Friday that saw a Model X rolled in Pennsylvania. The driver of the car, who was in the SUV along with a passenger on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on Friday around 5pm, July 1, told law enforcement that Autopilot was active when the incident took place.

According to Albert Scaglione, driver of the car, the Model X struck a guard rail before hitting a concrete meridian and rolling onto its roof. Scaglione told the state police that he had Autopilot – an umbrella term for a variety of driver assistance technologies, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping – turned on at the time.

However, Tesla Motors itself is doubtful of the explanation, with the electric car company telling The Detroit News that there is "no reason to believe that Autopilot had anything to do with this accident."

Since ever Tesla is a connected car, and sends out telemetry automatically if an incident such as a crash takes place, the automaker was among the first to know that something had happened.

"We received an automated alert from this vehicle on July 1 indicating air bag deployment, but logs containing detailed information on the state of the vehicle controls at the time of the collision were never received," a spokesperson told the paper. "This is consistent with damage of the severity reported in the press, which can cause the antenna to fail."

Autopilot's potential role in the crash is highly topical, given less than a week ago the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed it was beginning a preliminary investigation into a fatality earlier in the year where the assistance technology was confirmed active.

Then, a driver in Florida struck a tractor-trailer as it crossed the carriageway in front of his Model S, sheering off the top of the car and killing the driver. Tesla said that early data indicated the camera system that forms part of Autopilot's sensor suite had been unable to differentiate the white-colored truck from the bright sky behind it.

However, the driver himself was reportedly not paying attention to the road either, with claims he was watching a DVD of Harry Potter on a portable player when the crash took place.

Among the warnings Tesla drivers must acknowledge when Autopilot is activated is a caution that it is not designed for unsupervised use, and that drivers must pay attention to the roadway and be prepared to resume control at any time.

The NHTSA said today that it "is collecting information from the Pennsylvania State Police, Tesla and the driver of a Tesla Model X involved in a crash on July 1 to determine whether automated functions were in use at the time of the crash."

Tesla says it has attempted to contact Scaglione, who was reportedly injured during the incident, but has not been able to speak with him.

VIA The Detroit News