Two years ago, a 2017 Tesla Model X sped directly into a concrete barrier on a Silicon Valley freeway and now, earlier this week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that the man behind the wheel of the vehicle was playing video games at the time of the accident. While Elon Musk has been installing speech features into his later models and hiring employees without degree requirements, his semi-autonomous vehicles have become somewhat of a danger to society due to people’s reliance on the vehicle’s self-piloting feature.
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According to NBC Bay Area, Walter Huang was commuting to his engineering gig at Apple on March 23, 2018, when he activated the ‘autopilot’ feature on his 2017 Tesla Model X. After investigating the accident thoroughly, the National Transportation Safety Board gathered the cell phone records and data received from Huang’s phone which revealed that a gaming app was in use during the time of the crash on Highway 101.
Robert Sumwalt revealed to The Verge the NTSB’s findings, stating:
“The Tesla car log data showed that there was no driver-applying steering wheel torque, indicating the hands were likely off the steering wheel during this time period.” He continued, “In this crash, we saw an over-reliance on technology, we saw distraction, we saw a lack of policy prohibiting cell phone use while driving, and we saw infrastructure failures, which, when combined, led to this tragic loss.”
NTSB’s report also revealed that the Model X’s forward-collision warning system failed to warn Huang of an upcoming barrier. Sumwalt also blames Sumwalt California’s transportation department after discovering that the barrier was damaged in an accident 11 days prior to the incident involving Huang.
Sumwalt then took aim at Tesla stating:
“We urge Tesla to continue to work on improving their Autopilot technology and for NHTSA to fulfill its oversight responsibility to ensure that corrective action is taken where necessary. It’s time to stop enabling drivers in any partially automated vehicle to pretend that they have driverless cars.”
The NTSB chairman then went on to reveal that the Board had urged Tesla to look further into their vehicle automation systems earlier, saying:
“We ask that recommendation recipients respond to us within 90 days. That’s all we ask. But it’s been 881 days since these recommendations were sent to Tesla and we’ve heard nothing. We’re still waiting.”
While Walter Huang is at fault for treating his Tesla like a self-driving car, the National Transportation Safety Board believes that if Tesla doesn’t adjust their autopilot features in the future, we’ll see the death toll rapidly rise from autonomous vehicle incidents. Check out KPIX CBS SF Bay Area report of the cause of the Tesla crash in the video provided below.