In Tesla Autopilot crashes, NTSB says drivers and regulation are also to blame

Blame is shared in these two fatal crashes, and the NTSB wants everyone to step up.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
Tesla Model 3 Autopilot
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Tesla Model 3 Autopilot

Autopilot isn't dangerous, you just need to use it correctly.


After a handful of fatal crashes involving Tesla's Autopilot system, the US National Transportation Safety Board delivered its final verdict on two of the most high-profile cases. Long story short, there's blame to go around.

The NTSB issued its final reports for two Autopilot-related crashes on Thursday. The first is the widely publicized incident involving an Apple engineer and his Tesla Model X in California. The second involved a Tesla Model 3 and a driver in Florida. Both drivers lost their lives in the crashes.

In the California incident, the NTSB declared the driver and an over-reliance on technology was at fault in this crash. After reviewing all evidence, the NTSB said, "The driver's lack of evasive action combined with data indicating his hands were not detected on the steering wheel, is consistent with a person distracted by a portable electronic device."

A quick drive (literally) in Tesla's Model 3 Performance

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Data showed the driver was playing a game on his phone at the time of the crash. The Autopilot system did not issue any alerts and the driver never attempted any manual inputs ahead of the crash.

In the Florida crash, the agency officially placed blame on a semi truck driver who failed to yield. The Model 3 struck the truck, which was blocking all lanes. The NTSB also said, however, the driver over-relied on Autopilot after Tesla said the system is not designed to activate for cross traffic or apply the brakes at high speeds.

And this is where the blame spreads out. While the NTSB ultimately named the drivers as major factors in these incidents, it also pointed to Tesla's Autopilot technology as a major factor in both fatal crashes. Specifically, the fact drivers felt they could trust the system to do more than it's designed to handle. But the agency also called out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a lack of regulations on how to incorporate these Level 2 partially automated systems in vehicles. Poignantly, the NTSB said regulations will save lives when it comes to adding partial automation to vehicles. 

Watch this: Tesla Model 3 Performance lives up to its name, but still falls short of perfect