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Tesla Faults Brakes, but Not Autopilot, in Fatal Crash

Tesla Motors has told Senate investigators that its crash-prevention system failed to work properly in a fatal crash, but said its Autopilot technology was not at fault, according to a Senate staff member.

Instead, Tesla told members of the Senate Commerce Committee staff on Thursday that the problem involved the car’s automatic braking system, said the staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was not clear how or why Tesla considers the automatic braking system to be separate from Autopilot, which combines automated steering, adaptive cruise control and other features meant to avoid accidents. Tesla declined to comment on Friday.

The company told the committee staff that it considered the braking systems as “separate and distinct” from Autopilot, which manages the car’s steering, and can change lanes and adjust travel speed, the staff member said.

That argument is consistent with the company’s continued resistance to critics’ calls for the company to disable Autopilot. Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, and other company officials have continued to defend Autopilot, describing it as a lifesaving technology.

Tesla is still trying to determine whether the car’s radar and camera systems failed to detect a tractor-trailer that was crossing the roadway, or whether they saw the truck but misidentified it as an overpass or overhead road sign.

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