The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a preliminary report for a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model 3 utilizing AutoPilot and a semi-truck-trailer combination vehicle. The accident happened in March of 2019 in Delray Beach, Florida.

According to the NTSB’s report (find it here), the Tesla was traveling at nearly 15 miles over the posted speed limit of 55 mph when it struck the trailer of the semi-truck combination. The truck, meanwhile, was crossing the highway to make a left turn into opposing lanes. The highway is a divided four-lane road with bicycle lanes and, at the point of impact, turn lanes for both left- and right-hand turns. The truck was leaving a private driveway entrance (seen at right in photo below) from an agricultural facility.

The driver of the Tesla had engaged the Model 3’s AutoPilot suite of automated driver’s aids (often incorrectly billed as “self-driving” technologies) about 10 seconds before. According to the car’s black box, the driver’s hands were not on the wheel at the time of impact and had not been for about 8 seconds beforehand. The Tesla did not react to the pending accident at all, failing to register the truck-and-trailer’s presence and making no evasive maneuvering or braking to slow down the vehicle until after the car had struck the trailer.

The Model 3 hit the trailer midships, going underneath and out the other side. In the process, the car’s roof was sheared from the car and the driver was killed before emergency personnel arrived. The semi-truck driver was uninjured.

This is the latest of several accidents involving Tesla vehicles equipped with and using the company’s AutoPilot system of driver’s aids. It’s likely that, as with an earlier accident involving a Tesla utilizing AutoPilot and a semi-truck-trailer in Florida, the NTSB will find that both parties were at fault. Thus fans of Tesla will then blame the truck driver and the driver of the Model 3 and ignore the clear indicators that the company’s AutoPilot system and Musk and Co’s marketing of it share a big chunk of the responsibility as well.

Even as advocates of the AutoPilot system claim that it’s the most advanced self-driving technology on the market and that Tesla is years ahead of any of the competition in automated driving systems, they’ll ignore the fact that no other self-driving system on the market has had the same record of fatal accidents attached to it. For the Tesla fan, this is just more “real-world data gathering” to be added to the dataset made to improve AutoPilot for everyone. Tesla fanboys are happy to be guinea pigs for their favorite automaker and see the death of one of their own as just a necessary requirement for improvement to the collective.

Somehow, I suspect that these same Tesla fans do not cheer the Borg when watching Star Trek and they’re probably not in the theater hoping Thanos wins.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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