— A fatal Saratoga, Calif. Tesla crash investigation has been closed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after investigators learned how Autopilot was used by the driver.
The August 12, 2020, crash occurred as a 2019 Tesla Model 3 was traveling northbound on State Route 85 in Saratoga with a 75-year-old man behind the wheel and his wife as passenger.
The driver was operating the Tesla with Autopilot (Autosteer plus Traffic Aware Cruise Control) engaged, but the NTSB says the driver was manually pressing the accelerator pedal.
When the driver pressed the accelerator pedal he caused the cruise control to enter override mode because the driver was overriding the set speed with the accelerator pedal.
The Tesla Model 3 issued a visual alert, audible chime and another chime to the driver because his hands were not detected on the steering wheel, then Autopilot issued a warning alert that it would disengage.
The Tesla Model 3 was traveling behind a 2015 Toyota Sienna minivan in the same travel lane at about 68 mph before the driver increased the speed to 72 mph. This caused a forward collision warning and triggered the automatic emergency braking feature.
"Within 1.5 seconds of the AEB trigger, the vehicle speed decreased to about 53 mph even though the pressure applied to the accelerator pedal by the driver increased to 95 percent." — NTSB
With Autopilot disengaged, the Model 3 issued another forward collision warning as the vehicle speed increased because the driver was pressing the accelerator pedal.
The Tesla slammed into the Sienna minivan which caused the Toyota to lose control and come to rest on the shoulder of SR-85.
"During impact with the minivan, the Tesla recorded a brief (<200 msec) flutter of brake pedal application by the Tesla driver with recorded continued pressure applied to the accelerator pedal that increased up to 100 percent as the Tesla accelerated onto the Saratoga Avenue exit from SR-85 (recorded speed of 110 mph with a maximum speed of 114 mph reached)." — NTSB
The Model 3 traveled 1,418 feet on the off-ramp and the driver did not apply the brake or take evasive action before entering the Saratoga Avenue intersection against a red traffic light.
The Tesla finally slammed into a 2010 Toyota Tundra pickup truck before the Model 3 flew across a raised center median and through the two southbound lanes of Saratoga Avenue.
According to investigators, the Tesla caught fire on an uphill embankment, killing both occupants.
The Sienna minivan occupants were injured as were the occupants of the pickup truck, some seriously.
In closing its investigation into the use of automated technology, the NTSB noted the daytime Tesla crash occurred in dry and clear weather conditions.