Enlarge /. The trailer sheared off the roof of Jeremy Banner's car and killed him immediately.
"It really looked like I had a lot of time to cross," said a concerned Florida truck driver in an interview transcript released by the National Transportation Safety Board this week. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
Richard Wood drove a truck on the morning of March 1, 2019. He drove from a driveway on Florida's SR 7 and wanted to turn left. When he crossed into the opposite lane, a Tesla Model 3 by Jeremy Banner crashed into the side of the truck. Banners Tesla went under Wood's trailer, sheared the roof, and killed Banners.
The case attracted great attention because Banner had used Tesla's autopilot technology. Not only that, the circumstances of Banner’s death were almost identical to the first autopilot death in the United States: Josh Brown’s death in 2016. Brown was also killed when the autopilot didn’t stop for a truck ride on a Florida freeway ,
The truck driver's interview log was one of many documents released by the NTSB this week in connection with two fatal accidents with Tesla's autopilot. I hope I can go through documents related to the other crash, Walter Huang's death in 2018, in the coming days.
"This guy didn't make it"
Banner's case documents contain a lot of new information about the circumstances of his death. Based on video footage, the NTSB estimates that the truck hit the road in front of Banner's car about 4.5 seconds before the accident. Banner was traveling at almost 70 miles an hour; The truck drove about 10 miles an hour. No vehicle slowed down in these 4.5 seconds or took any other evasive action.
In fact, Wood says he initially didn't even notice that a fatal crash had occurred.
"I wanted to take the left lane and continue north," Wood said in an interview with the authorities in March last year. "It's a very busy intersection … It's one of those intersections that makes you wonder why there are no traffic lights. But I've done it a dozen times. I clearly thought I had a lot of time."
The crash occurred just before sunrise. Wood says he saw two pairs of headlights approach, but believed they were far enough away that he could easily cross the intersection.
"It was dark and the cars looked like they were farther back than they were," said Wood.
Then Wood says he "felt a knock against my trailer". He got out of his truck and "looked at my trailer and I saw debris stuck on the side of the trailer and it had a scratch mark on the side of the trailer." It was still dark, he said. "I thought I was involved in a hit and run."
In reality, the swing of Banners Model 3 carried the vehicle far down the road – apparently so far that Wood didn't see it when he got out of his truck. Wood says he saw the terrible truth only a few minutes later when he saw the lights of emergency vehicles in the distance.
"This guy in this pickup comes up and says," Are you the guy driving this tractor? "I said," Yes, "and he says," This guy didn't make it "I said," What are you talking about? "He says: & # 39; This guy – he sheared the whole roof off his car. & # 39;
Only then, says Wood, did the reality of the situation hit him completely. "I went and got in the truck and sat there until the police got there because I was just trembling," he told the authorities.
No obvious distractions
The driver's distraction is often a factor in such situations, but the NTSB has not identified any obvious factors that affect the driver. Wood says he didn't use his cell phone while driving this morning – an allegation that appears to be supported by cell phone records. He told investigators that he hadn't drunk a drop of alcohol since 2014.
The investigators also found no evidence that Banner was compromised or distracted. "Telephone records indicate that the Tesla driver had not made a phone call or sent an SMS at the time of the crash," writes an NTSB investigator. "The records also show that the driver did not text or call on his phone three mornings before the accident date."
Data from Tesla shows that Banner activated the autopilot traffic-conscious cruise control 12.3 seconds before the fatal crash. He then activated Tesla's autosteer function 9.9 seconds before the impact.
"The sensors in the Tesla did not recognize the driver's hands on the steering wheel 7.7 seconds before the accident," reports the NTSB.
It is certain that Banner did not look at the road in front of the vehicle in the last seconds of his life. If he had, he would surely have noticed that a truck pulled out in front of his vehicle. Even if he couldn't have stopped his car completely in the 4.5 seconds that the car held in front of him, Banner could certainly have slowed the vehicle down. However, the telemetry shows that the vehicle did not slow down at all – indicating that neither Banner nor the autopilot software recognized that a crash was imminent.
Investigations into the crash of Josh Brown in 2016 showed that (as my colleague Jonathan Gitlin wrote) "the machine learning algorithms underlying AEB systems were only trained to recognize the rear of other vehicles, not profiles or others aspects. " In the meantime, some driver assistance systems are designed to ignore stationary objects at high speeds, also because radar-based systems have problems distinguishing objects on the road from objects that are only close to the road. There have been several instances where Autopilot directed Tesla into parked vehicles in broad daylight. It's not clear if these issues were a factor in Banner's death, but we may learn more when the NTSB publishes its final report.
One thing driver assistance systems can do is force drivers to keep their eyes on the road. Cadillac's Super Cruise technology does just that and uses a driver-facing camera to see where a driver is looking. If Banners Model 3 had this function, he might have noticed the truck crossing before he left and stopped in time to save his life.