Tesla: Autopilot was not active during Pennsylvania Model X crash

Was it or wasn’t it? That’s the question that will now be asked every time someone crashes a Tesla. Well, don’t bother claiming that “Autopilot made me do it” if it isn’t true, because Little Brother is watching, in the form of electronic logs that record every movement of every Tesla automobile.

After a recent Model X rollover accident in Pennsylvania, the driver (who has reportedly been cited by police for careless driving) claimed that Autopilot was active during the crash. At first Tesla was unable to verify remotely whether it had been or not.

“We received an automated alert from this vehicle on July 1 indicating air bag deployment, but logs containing detailed information on the state of the vehicle controls at the time of the collision were never received,” Tesla said in a statement. “This is consistent with damage of the severity reported in the press, which can cause the antenna to fail.”

Apparently Tesla has now been able to download the logs directly from the vehicle, and says that Autopilot was turned off during the crash.

“Onboard vehicle logs show Autopilot was turned off in Pennsylvania crash. Moreover, crash would not have occurred if it was on,” tweeted Elon Musk.

A Tesla spokesperson released a play-by-play description of the incident:

We got access to the logs. Data from the vehicle shows that Autosteer was not engaged at the time of this collision. Prior to the collision, Autosteer was in use periodically throughout the approximately 50-minute trip. The most recent such use ended when, approximately 40 seconds prior to the collision, the vehicle did not detect the driver’s hands on the wheel and began a rapidly escalating set of visual and audible alerts to ensure the driver took proper control. When the driver failed to respond to 15 seconds of visual warnings and audible tones, Autosteer began a graceful abort procedure in which the music is muted, the vehicle begins to slow and the driver is instructed both visually and audibly to place their hands on the wheel. Approximately 11 seconds prior to the collision, the driver responded and regained control by holding the steering wheel, applying leftward torque to turn it, and pressing the accelerator pedal to 42%. Over 10 seconds and approximately 300m later and while under manual steering control, the driver drifted out of the lane, collided with a barrier, overcorrected, crossed both lanes of the highway, struck a median barrier, and rolled the vehicle.


Sources: @elonmusk, Electrek, Detroit Free Press, Jalopnik

  • Zephyr

    I wonder if he fell asleep and overreacted to something that happened on the road after waking up.

    • Nicolai Imset

      Same I was wondering.

      sleeping, woken by alerts, took manual control, fell back asleep. woke up when car driftet out of road, overcorrected and rolled.

  • bob

    Final score: Computer 1- Human 0

  • beardedman

    Saying “autopilot” was not active during the crash is a bit disingenuous. as the logs show, it WAS being used, but for whatever reason, the driver was no longer engaged in the driving process so the system turned itself off and was trying to get the driver involved in driving again. What does that really say?

    If you look at the end-to-end process of driver assist stuff, there has to be a way to reasonably cover all the bases of potential pitfalls. Cruse Control can disengage somewhat roughly but the driver is steering and (supposedly) alert so when it cuts out, the driver can react fast enough to keep the speed at a reasonable rate. Even if the car slows too much or too suddenly, maybe a tailgater will be too close to avoid collision. Having the car steer for you is a whole different animal. The system assumes a driver will only disengage from active steering of the car to a certain point. An assumption that can’t be guaranteed. The driver can disengage much further and, if he/she doesn’t re-engage fast enough or is startled, a terrible accident can follow. So, active at that exact second or not, the system seems to me to be a participant in the crash.

    How do you solve this? Eventually, data will be exchanged between other cars and stationary items. I don’t believe all of the smarts can be expected to reside solely inside a privately owned car. When a car can’t get a response to a sleeping/distracted driver to take over, it will be able to know what is around it, broadcast to other cars of an impaired driver and safely pull off the roadway and park by itself.

    My two cents.