Tesla says crashed vehicle had been on autopilot prior to accident

Rescue workers attend the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on US Highway 101 in Mountain View, California, last week. (Reuters)
Updated 31 March 2018
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Tesla says crashed vehicle had been on autopilot prior to accident

LONDON: Tesla Inc. said that a Tesla Model X involved a fatal crash in California last week had activated its Autopilot system, raising new questions about the semi-autonomous system that handles some driving tasks.
Tesla also said vehicle logs from the accident showed no action had been taken by the driver soon before the crash and that he had received earlier warnings to put his hands on the wheel.
“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,” Tesla said.
The statement did not say why the Autopilot system apparently did not detect the concrete divider.
The fatal crash and vehicle fire of the Tesla near Mountain View, California, involved two other cars and delayed traffic for hours. The 38-year-old Tesla driver died at a nearby hospital shortly after the crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which launched an investigation into the crash earlier this week, did not immediately comment late Friday. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also investigating the fatal crash.
Autopilot allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel for extended periods under certain conditions. Tesla requires users to agree to keep their hands on the wheel “at all times” before they can use autopilot, but users routinely tout the fact they can use the system to drive hands-free.
The NTSB faulted Tesla in a prior fatal autopilot crash.
In September, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said operational limitations in the Tesla Model S played a major role in a May 2016 crash that killed a driver using autopilot.
That death — the first fatality in a Tesla vehicle operating in Autopilot mode — 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.
The NTSB said Tesla could have taken further steps to prevent the system’s misuse, and faulted the driver for not paying attention and for “overreliance on vehicle automation.”
In January, NHTSA and NTSB launched investigations into a Tesla vehicle, apparently traveling in semi-autonomous mode, that struck a fire truck in California. Neither agency nor Tesla has offered any update.
The government probes raise the risk for Tesla and automakers at a time when the industry is seeking federal legislation that would ease deployment of self driving cars.
The crash comes soon after an Uber vehicle in Arizona in self-driving mode struck and killed a pedestrian in the first death linked to an autonomous vehicle.
Tesla said late Friday that “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.”
Tesla said that 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.”
Tesla in September 2016 unveiled improvements to Autopilot, adding new limits on hands-off driving.
On Thursday, Tesla said it was recalling 123,000 Model S sedans built before April 2016 in order to replace bolts in the power steering component that can begin to corrode after contact in cold temperatures with road salt. No accidents or injuries were reported.


Saudi Aramco discussing investments in India’s Reliance Industries

Updated 20 February 2019
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Saudi Aramco discussing investments in India’s Reliance Industries

  • World's biggest oil company targets petrochemicals
  • India is a top investment priority for Saudi Arabia

NEW DELHI: Saudi Aramco’s CEO Amin Nassar said on Wednesday that the company is in talks with India’s Reliance Industries for possible investments and is seeking other opportunities in the country.
Saudi Aramco signed an agreement in April with a consortium of state-owned Indian refiners to participate in a $44 billion refinery project on the country’s west coast.
“We are looking at additional investment in India so we are in discussions with other companies as well, including Reliance and others,” Nasser said in a panel discussion in New Delhi.
“We are looking at it. We are not limited to that investment which is the mega refinery,” Nasser said, referring to the west coast project, which would process 1.2 million bpd of crude and produce 18 million tons per year of petrochemicals.
Nasser is part of the entourage traveling with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in India for a one-day visit.
Reliance Industries, controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, is India’s biggest refining and petrochemicals company and runs a 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) refinery in western India. It plans to expand the capacity to 2 million bpd by 2030, according to plans shared with the Indian government.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude oil exporter, is keen to expand further into oil refining and petrochemicals.
India would provide a fast growing market for oil and fuels and is already a steady buyer of Saudi oil.
“India is an investment priority for Saudi Aramco. India takes from us almost 800,000 barrels a day and by 2040 India’s total consumption will be around 8.2 million barrels per day,” Nasser said.
India is currently world’s third-biggest crude oil consumer with demand of 4.7 million bpd, according to government figures.
However, Aramco is already facing delays for the refinery project, planned for the western state of Maharashtra, as thousands of farmers have refused to surrender land for it.
Reuters reported on Tuesday the Maharashtra government is looking to move the refinery location.
Yousef Al-Benyan, the chief executive officer for SABIC, the Saudi Arabia-based petrochemical company that is the fourth largest in the world, was also on the panel. He said SABIC wants to expand its business and presence in India.