Model X Crash Fatality and Fire on 3/22/18

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Brokedoc

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#1
5abba799657fae2d008b48aa-750-563.jpg

The recent crash and fatality and fire last week in a Model X is being heavily investigated and TSLA short sellers are using it to incite a panic and worsen the price correction in stock price.

A few facts:

The crash occurred at high speed into a concrete barrier where the crash attenuator was not repaired. It's like driving into a tree at high speed. Depending on the speed, it may be impossible to survive that type of crash in any vehicle.

c797f2e3b0f60355b1f82afc27e58962.png

Despite multiple pictures of the fire that consumed the Model X afterwards, it appears from witness reports that the driver was already removed from the vehicle which was empty by the time the fire became dangerous.

It may not be possible to find out if the car was on autopilot due to the extensive damage from the crash and the fire. The logs may have been destroyed but Tesla and all of the government agencies investigating will do everything possible to recover the data.

Having worked in NYC EMS for many years, I know that drivers can become ill or incapacitated while driving thereby precipitating a crash. The driver was only 38 years old but I'm sure the full investigation will address all possibilities.

Tesla's Blog post: https://www.tesla.com/blog/what-we-know-about-last-weeks-accident
 

TEG

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#2
That unrepaired / unreset barrier was worse than hitting a tree. It was a like a hardened metal fork that jabbed at the battery pack, and appears to have let the X's crash structure not help properly in slowing the vehicle. Really horrific / sad / catastrophic crash. Caltrans should be ashamed for leaving that barrier unrepaired and unprotected. Apparently someone had run into it and "used it up" 11 days prior. Also someone else died a few years ago in the same location:
https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2015/11/15/mountain-view-driver-dies-in-hwy-101-crash/
also (apparently) with the "crash cushion" left in an "already spent" and not ready configuration.
The area in front of the crash barrier is not marked well enough. It really should have plastic poles ("candelstick delineators") there to make sure people know to keep out. We have seen people try to use it as a passing lane.
 

garsh

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#3
Apparently someone had run into it and "used it up" 11 days prior.
Eleven days isn't really all that long. Fixing something like that on a busy road takes a good bit of planning, people, and equipment. You have to close lanes on both sides of the barrier for worker safety. You have to setup orange barrels for miles beforehand. Put up signs announcing the lane closures ahead. You need a portable barrier truck or two to help protect the work crew from people not paying attention. Not to mention a rather large semi to pick up the replacement barrier (wherever those are stored/bought) and transport it to the site.

It's a shame that somebody died, but don't be too quick to judge on this one.

 

TEG

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#4
Consider this:

#1: Once the news of this fatal crash became a big deal, they came right out and repaired it.
#2: They picked this type of barrier because it is "low maintenance", cheap and quick to repair.
( They say it can be "reset" in about 30 minutes. )
#3: They have a maintenance depot with trucks and parts basically right next to the location of the crash.
caltrans3.png
caltrans2.png
drivesafe.png
#4: They don't lay down barrels when resetting it. They just park one of those cushion trucks behind the crew.

They work on the barrier enough that the Streetview cameras have happened upon them multiple times.
Here is one picture when they were working on it before:
2015-mar3.png

I don't think they get a 'pass' on this. From what I can tell, there have been multiple fatalities against that barrier.
Resetting it seems to be a 'routine' operation that they have done repeatedly.
They used to have sand barrels there, but switched them for the "smart cushion" device, I assume because it is an area that has frequent impacts and is considered better served by a reusable device.
When they know it is inoperable, they should either reset it or leave some temporary cushion and/or major warnings there.
All of the data I have seen on impacts with that "smart cushion" device are done with a working unit in the "ready to go" position. They don't talk about what happens if you let someone run into after it was already impacted.
When it was impacted 11 days prior, someone came out and put some orange cones next to it which clearly wasn't enough to prevent another impact into the non-functional cushion.
In that 2015 fatality I mentioned above, there we indications that the "smart cushion" device may have also been left in the "already impacted" condition.
 
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TEG

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#5
This thread on another forum has a bunch of pictures of it left in the impacted / damaged condition:

https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/posts/2636752/

If Streetview and DashCams were seeing it in that condition so many times, I have to assume the response times to reset it have been lengthy. Some of the photos appear to have it in the same exact unsafe condition for months at a time.
 

TEG

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#7
Having read through very many transportation department documents to better understand this, one thing that stands out is that total lifecycle costs of barrier components gets talked about way more than the safety of the driver. So to emphasize the problem I see here in terms that politicians and money counters should ponder:

If a smart cusion is left un-reset and then someone else rams into it, that is not an "in spec" event for the smart cushion and it can become permanently damaged and require total replacement. So their arguments to "single source" the smart cushion because it has low cost to operate due to some number of re-usability cycles becomes invalid if they don't do proper maintenance to let it be re-used the planned number of cycles.

Also, from the "taxpayers should care about the costs" standpoint, having it left in an out-of-spec configuration could lead to costly lawsuits that taxpayers will end up paying, so the purported costs savings of this device are also called into question due to that.

The old system of sand/water barrels they had before had some advantages such as:
#1: Much easier to see, so less likely for people to run into them.
#2: When they are impacted they fall apart and leave visible debris for people to notice and report and expect them to be repaired quickly.
#3: They are much wider and softer, so not so likely to cut through a bumper and skewer an EV battery pack.

The smart cushion doesn't look obviously damaged when impacted so drivers whiz by it unaware that it is in a much more dangerous state. The smart cushion is advertised as a "low maintenance" device which could be perceived to mean "you don't have to rush out and repair it as quickly as other types of crash attenuators".


I assume there are stories behind this such as staff shortages, scheduling issues, and other SNAFUs the lead to this type of sad tragedy.
I assume that there are responsible people who feel really bad about this, but feel their hands were tied, and they couldn't do any better.
I hope someone analyzes this situation to find out how to improve "the system".
 
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Frank99

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#9
To the OP's point about the driver getting out before the fire, here's a still from a video taken after the driver was removed from the vehicle, but before it caught on fire (shamelessly stolen from the video here: https://insideevs.com/tesla-model-x-catches-fire-horrific-crash-california/). Note that the driver's seat is empty and unburned; in the video you can see that a small fire has started in the battery pack:
ModelXFire.png
 

TEG

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#10
https://www.kqed.org/news/11658404
...
"The reason this crash was so severe is that the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had either been removed or crushed in a prior accident without being replaced," Tesla said. "... We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash."
The National Transportation Safety Board told the Washington Post the agency is "looking at the damaged attenuator and looking at an undamaged one and looking at if it had an effect."
Caltrans said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon that the agency is "reviewing the facts and circumstances of this incident and are cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board's ongoing investigation. Safety is our top priority and Caltrans will carefully evaluate the investigation's findings and take appropriate action."
The agency didn't address questions about when the attenuator was damaged or whether the crash site experiences a high rate of crashes.
...

 

TEG

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#11
I felt compelled to research what happened because I live near there, drive past there, and got stuck in the traffic for an hour behind that accident and saw it up close first hand. It feels "close to home" and "personal" and I want me and my family to be driving by an appropriately safe protective barrier cushion.
 

Maevra

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#13
I live very close by and here are my observations and anecdotal info from someone who drives this road every day:

1. This stretch can be a very confusing and unclear lane change for those who are not familiar with the area. It's very common to see drivers merge left, thinking they got into the lane with no traffic, only to swing back into the 101 lane because they realized too late they were in the 85-only lane. I've also seen cars literally slow down or stop completely in the middle of the split trying to get into one lane or another because they were confused about which one to take.

2. The lane markings in the last hundred feet leading up to the barrier are poorly marked and the white lines have faded/are barely visible in places. I really wish they would paint diagonal lines across the split to clearly signal "do not cross".

3. I don't like using AP when driving right next to that stretch in the HOV lane, especially during rush hour, because there's a high chance that other drivers will cut in from the left at high speed to get back into the 101 HOV lane.

4. I never even knew that crash barrier was supposed to be stretched out. It always seemed to be crunched up every time I passed (and I've lived in the area since 2015).
 

TEG

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#15
I wonder what % of crashes there hit the barrier that is already impacted from a previous crash. They ought to have those statistics available. At what point do they decide that % is unacceptable, and they need to find a way to shorten the response time? ...Or redesign the area to make crashes less frequent? They could look at number of fatalities at that location too.
 

MelindaV

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#17
just for another frame of reference on speed to repair safety barricades, yesterday afternoon there was a wreck into a median barricade here (early afternoon with the crash backing up traffic thru evening). First thing this morning I'd seen a tweet from WashDOT that there would be a crew working on the shoulder to replace it during morning commuting hours. so, less than 12 hours. This wasn't an actuator, but the old school wood posts with the horizontally mounted steel bumper.
Similarly on the Oregon side, in the last month an actuator like in the Model X crash was crushed on my work off ramp - it had sand barrels set up later that day and was replaced within 3 days.
 

TEG

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#18
https://www.tesla.com/blog/update-last-week’s-accident

It sounds like the car was on auto-pilot driving in the same area where you see a street-view car driving here:
streetgore.png

You aren't supposed to be there. Drivers are expected to notice the barrier warning up ahead and move across one of those white lines into a real lane.

Looks like a street view car was driving in the gore area here too:
street-gore2.png
 
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Maevra

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#19
From the post (emphasis added):

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.

So sounds like he was not paying attention or maybe was incapacitated in the seconds leading up to the crash? The visual and audio cues on Model S/X are pretty hard to miss IMO.