The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report on the March crash that killed driver Walter Huang in Mountain View. The report confirms that Autopilot was engaged ahead of the crash, and it appears to confirm that a navigation mistake by Autopilot contributed to Huang's death.
Eight seconds before the crash, the vehicle was following behind another car, travelling at 65mph. A second later it decided to steer left for no apparent reason. That "left steering movement" carried the vehicle into the "gore area"—a triangular area of paved road that separated the highway's main travel lanes from the diverging exit lane.
At four seconds before the crash, the Tesla vehicle was no longer following the car ahead of it. The car's cruise control was set to 75mph, so it began to accelerate, reaching a speed of 70.8mph just before the crash. There was "no precrash braking or evasive steering movement detected", the NTSB says.
The owner's hands were not detected on the steering wheel for the final six seconds before the crash. Tesla claims that Huang received warnings to put his hands on the wheel, but according to the NTSB, these warnings came more than 15 minutes before the crash.
It appears the car just decided to end it all. After all, life is not that interesting being a car and after the first few hundred miles, things get a bit repetitive. Tesla has emphasised that a damaged crash attenuator had contributed to the severity of the crash and the NTSB report agrees.
But the crash created a big battery fire that destroyed the front of Huang's vehicle. "The Mountain View Fire Department applied approximately 200 gallons of water and foam" over a 10-minute period to put out the fire, the NTSB reported. Bystanders removed Huang from his burning vehicle. He was taken to the hospital, where he died from his injuries.
A few hours after the crash, "the Tesla battery emanated smoke and audible venting". Five days later, the smouldering battery rei-gnited, requiring another visit from the fire department.