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Tesla’s Model 3 autopilot mode was activated seconds before a fatal crash

A Tesla Model 3 in the Tesla Motors Store in Frankfurt
A Tesla Model 3 in the Tesla Motors Store in FrankfurtAssociated Press

It’s the third fatal crash in the US where Tesla’s autopilot mode was switched on.

The news: The driver, Jeremy Banner, activated the autopilot feature on his Tesla Model 3 about 10 seconds before he crashed into a semi truck on March 1 in Delray Beach, Florida, according to a preliminary report from the US National Transportation Safety Board.

The car was traveling at about 68 miles per hour before it collided with the truck as it crossed the highway, tearing off the car’s roof and killing Banner. Tesla said the vehicle did not detect Banner’s hands on the wheel during impact, and neither he nor the autopilot system tried to swerve, the report states.

A precedent: This is the third Tesla crash of this type. The first was on May 7, 2016, also in Florida, and the second was on March 23, 2018, in Mountain View, California.

Tesla’s response: The company says its cars have driven over one billion miles with autopilot activated. A spokesperson told the Register that autopilot makes journeys safer when “used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times.”

However, CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly claimed that the software is almost at the point where drivers do not have to pay attention to the road. It’s possible that some customers may believe the software to be more advanced than it actually is, luring them into a false sense of security.

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