Investigations Show That Both The Vehicle And The Driver Were At Fault In Self-Driving Car Accident

The Washington Post reports that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that both the driver and the onboard technology contributed to a fatal crash of a Tesla that killed a man in 2018.

On March 23, 2018, Walter Huang, who worked as an engineer for Apple,  was killed after he dropped off his son at preschool. Just a few days before the fatal crash, Hung had driven his Tesla into a barrier off Highway 101 in Mountain View. The car had steered toward it in the past, and Huang had caught it in time.  

When Huang was later killed, Tesla tried to claim that he had become over-reliant on the vehicle’s Autopilot system.  The company further alleged that since Huang was possibly playing a cellphone game at the time and simply wasn’t paying attention. Cellphone records confirmed that the game was active at the time of the crash.

NTSB chairman, Robert L. Sumwalt III, said in a statement on Tuesday that federal regulators had shown a lack of leadership in addressing several safety concerns that are still showing problems in vehicles that are at least partially self-driving.

Sumwalt said that the NTSB investigation found that Tesla and other manufacturers of partially automated vehicles are implementing technologies that can get people hurt or killed.  Manufacturers have so far failed to put in place safeguards that would provide safeguards to prevent the technologies from malfunctioning or being misused.

The report was critical of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which regulates the safety of vehicles.  The NTSB has found that while the USDOT has opened up a number of cases against Tesla after accidents have happened, it has failed to act proactively when it comes to regulating the overall safety of the technology.

For owners and drivers of the vehicles, Sumwalt admonished, “If you own a car with partial automation, you do not own a self-driving car. Don’t pretend that you do.”

The five members of the NTSB board that conducted the investigation voted unanimously that the crash involving Huang’s Tesla was caused by both “system limitations” in Tesla’s Autopilot feature, and from Huang’s distraction while he was playing a game on his cellphone at the time.

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