Newspaper article International New York Times

Tesla Blames Brakes for Fatal Crash

Newspaper article International New York Times

Tesla Blames Brakes for Fatal Crash

Article excerpt

The company told Senate staff members that the automatic braking system was "separate and distinct" from Autopilot, according to staff members.

Tesla Motors has told United States Senate investigators that its crash-prevention system failed to work properly in a fatal crash but said its Autopilot technology was not at fault, according to a Senate staff member.

Instead, Tesla told members of the Senate Commerce Committee staff last week that the problem involved the car's automatic braking system, said the staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was not clear how or why Tesla considers the automatic braking system to be separate from Autopilot, which combines automated steering, adaptive cruise control and other features meant to avoid accidents. Tesla declined to comment on Friday.

"Those systems are supposed to work together to prevent an accident," said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, an auto research firm. "But either the car didn't know it had to stop, or it did know and wasn't able to stop. That involves Autopilot and the automatic braking."

Tesla told the committee staff that it considered the braking systems as "separate and distinct" from Autopilot, which manages the car's steering, and can change lanes and adjust travel speed, the staff member said.

That argument is consistent with Tesla's continued resistance to critics' calls for the company to disable Autopilot. Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk, and other company officials have continued to defend Autopilot, describing it as a lifesaving technology.

The meeting on Thursday, which involved Tesla engineering executives, was in response to a request from the committee for more information about Autopilot and the cause of the crash, which occurred in Florida.

The executives also urged against governmental action that could slow introduction of automated-driving technology, according to the staff member. Tesla expressed the view that while some deaths might occur as automakers developed and perfected these kinds of innovations, the safety benefits outweighed the risks, this person said. …

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