Both Tesla and Apple are under fire from the NTSB after a car that was on Autopilot crashed, resulting in the driver’s death in 2018.
A board meeting was happened today “to determine the probable cause of the fatal crash” where a Model X hit the median barrier Highway 101 in Mountain View, California on March 23, 2018. After the initial impact it quickly set on fire, before two other cars impacted it from the rear. The driver of the Model X was taken to hospital but later on died of his injuries.
The NTSB was quick to launch an investigation into this accident, with the main focus being on the electrical fire and how these can be combatted more efficiently in the future. Unfortunately, this focus quickly changed to the fact the car was on Autopilot at the time of the accident.
Tesla was able to view the data logs of the vehicle, confirming that the car was in Autopilot at the time of the crash. The driver’s phone also confirmed that he was playing a game on it at the time of the accident, too. Once Tesla released the statement including this information, the NTSB said that it was “unhappy” about the release of the company’s interpretation. CEO Elon Musk quickly retorted:
Lot of respect for NTSB, but NHTSA regulates cars, not NTSB, which is an advisory body. Tesla releases critical crash data affecting public safety immediately & always will. To do otherwise would be unsafe.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 2, 2018
The hearing today saw NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt put blame on both Tesla and Apple, the employer of the driver:
“The crash driver’s employer, Apple, is a tech leader, but like most employers, has yet to develop a distracted driving policy.”
The NTSB chairman also said this about Tesla (via Reuters):
“Sumwalt also had harsh words for Tesla, which he said has ignored the NTSB’s calls for the company to equip its vehicles with better safeguards to prevent drivers from misusing systems that provide limited automation. He said auto safety regulators have provided little oversight of the technology and also ignored recommendations to improve the safety of those systems.”
Tesla has always told drivers that Autopilot is not full autonomy and should therefore still be giving their full attention to the road.
It sounds to me as though the NTSB don’t know what to blame for this accident, so because of this, are lashing out at whatever they can. From the quotes above, they also seem quite naive to the Tesla systems. I wonder if they’ve ever had any experience behind the wheel in one?