What might they reveal?
***UPDATE: Late last night, Tesla issued a statement after retrieving logs from the wrecked Model X. You'll find the entire statement posted at the bottom of this page. The main findings include:
"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. The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. 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."
The fatal accident involving a Tesla Model X last week continues to be investigated, and as time goes by, more seems to be on the line for the automaker. Tesla has seen its share price plunge this week — it hit a low of $249.22 on the 28th after opening at $311.25 on the 24th — not only because it seems more clear it will miss its downward-revised Model 3 production target, but because the safety of its Autopilot driver assistance software is being called into question as a result of the tragic incident.
Tesla module being recovered from crashed Model X
It's impossible to predict whether suitable answers will ever be found for the cause of the crash, but investigators have been able to recover a couple of modules they may provide some clues. California's Highway Patrol Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), working together, recovered both the restraint control module and infotainment module from the severely damaged Model X.
Investigators will work with Tesla to download and interpret the data in hopes of finding some indication of what went wrong in the moments leading to the accident. The automaker addressed the situation publicly in a blog post, blaming the severity of the damage on a crash attenuator that hadn't been replaced following an accident at that same spot eleven days earlier.
ABC News 7 reports that the victim's brother, Walter Huang, told investigators his sibling had complained about the vehicle's behavior, saying it had previously veered toward that same barrier on seven to ten different occasions while Autopilot was engaged, and was the main reason he had brought his vehicle in for service recently. At that visit, he says, the company could not replicate the anomaly.
The CHP is aware of that damning claim and "has been acting on it for some time now." For its part, Tesla has said it only has a record of a complaint about navigation, which is a different system. It also noted in its blog post that Tesla's have traveled past that location 80,000 previous times without incident, and continue to at a rate of 200 times a day.
No doubt this story is far from over, but until facts can be ascertained — hopefully with help from these recovered modules or other clues — the cause of the accident is speculative. We will, of course, be following the extended aftermath of this tragedy.
Tesla statement below:
An Update on Last Week’s Accident
March 30, 2018
Since posting our first update, we have been working as quickly as possible to establish the facts of last week’s accident. Our hearts are with the family and friends who have been affected by this tragedy.
The safety of our customers is our top priority, which is why we are working closely with investigators to understand what happened, and what we can do to prevent this from happening in the future. After the logs from the computer inside the vehicle were recovered, we have more information about what may have happened.
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. The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. 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.
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. We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash.
Over a year ago, our first iteration of Autopilot was found by the U.S. government to reduce crash rates by as much as 40%. Internal data confirms that recent updates to Autopilot have improved system reliability.
In the US, there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles from all manufacturers. For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware. If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.
Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents – such a standard would be impossible – but it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.
No one knows about the accidents that didn’t happen, only the ones that did. The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe. There are about 1.25 million automotive deaths worldwide. If the current safety level of a Tesla vehicle were to be applied, it would mean about 900,000 lives saved per year. We expect the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars.
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. Nothing could be further from the truth. 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.