Tesla has confirmed that yes, Autopilot was active when a Model X was the at the center of a fatal crash last week.
A new post filed to the auto maker’s blog on Friday confirmed this key detail. The March 23 crash, which occurred when the Model X struck a highway barrier, left the driver dead.
“In the moments before the collision, which occurred at 9:27 a.m. on Friday, March 23rd, Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum,” Tesla’s blog post reads.
The driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel during the six seconds prior to the crash, though the vehicle had issued one audio “hands-on” warning and multiple dashboard warnings earlier in the drive.
“The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.”
If you’d rather have it spelled out: Tesla stops short of openly blaming the crash on the driver, though the added context around “Yes, Autopilot was on” strongly implies that human error is to blame here.
Human error is certainly at fault, according to Tesla, for the severity of the crash.
“The reason this crash was so severe is because the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had been crushed in a prior accident without being replaced,” the post reads. “We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash.”
The rest of the post focuses primarily on safety statistics, noting that while Autopilot doesn’t prevent every accident, it does make them “much less likely to occur.” And if you think it’s weird for the company to go into PR mode to stick up for its product so soon after a fatal accident, you’re apparently not alone.
“In the past, when we have brought up statistical safety points, we have been criticized for doing so, implying that we lack empathy for the tragedy that just occurred,” the post’s last paragraph reads.
“We care deeply for and feel indebted to those who chose to put their trust in us. However, we must also care about people now and in the future whose lives may be saved if they know that Autopilot improves safety. None of this changes how devastating an event like this is or how much we feel for our customer’s family and friends. We are incredibly sorry for their loss.”