WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The family of the driver of a Tesla Model S who was killed in a May 2016 crash while using the car’s semi-autonomous driving system said on Monday the car was not to blame for the crash.
The statement from the family of Joshua Brown, released by a law firm, comes a day before the National Transportation Safety Board is set to hold a hearing in Washington and vote on the probable cause of the crash.
“We heard numerous times that the car killed our son. That is simply not the case,” said the statement from the family, breaking its silence on the crash. “There was a small window of time when neither Joshua nor the Tesla features noticed the truck making the left-hand turn in front of the car.”
“People die every day in car accidents,” the statement said. “Change always comes with risks, and zero tolerance for deaths would totally stop innovation and improvements.”
A spokeswoman for Tesla Inc and a lawyer for the family, Jack Landskroner, have declined to say if the automaker has reached a legal settlement with the Brown family.
“Josh Brown was a friend to Tesla, and as his family articulated so eloquently, a passionate advocate for technology. Our thoughts are with the entire Brown family,” the company said in a statement Monday.
The fatal incident raised questions about the safety of systems that can perform driving tasks for long stretches with little or no human intervention, but which cannot completely replace human drivers.
Brown was killed near Williston, Florida, when his Model S collided with a truck while it was engaged in the “Autopilot” mode.
In January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it found no evidence of defects in the crash. NHTSA said Brown did not apply the brakes and his last action was to set the cruise control at 74 miles per hour (119 kph), less than two minutes before the crash – above the 65-mph speed limit.
In June, the NTSB said that during a 37-minute period of his final drive Brown had his hands on the wheel for just 25 seconds.
Tesla in September 2016 unveiled improvements in Autopilot, putting new limits on hands-off driving and other features that its chief executive officer said likely would have prevented the crash death.
The family noted Tesla’s continued improvements to Autopilot and said it “takes solace and pride in the fact that our son is making such a positive impact on future highway safety.”
NTSB could make policy recommendations but cannot order recalls or force regulatory changes.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Joseph White and Jonathan Oatis