Two years ago, 38-year-old Chinese-American engineer David Huang was killed in a crash in San Mateo County, California, while driving the Tesla Model X. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released an investigation into the accident. The NTSB’s investigation report said the Model X, which Mr Huang was driving, was driving off the freeway lane and exit ramp when the accident occurred and collided with a guardrail at 71 mph.
At the time, the Model X’s forward collision avoidance system did not alert the driver and its automatic emergency braking system was not activated.
In addition, six seconds before the accident, the driver Huang Weilun did not put his hand on the steering wheel, did not make any brake or avoid the action. He had been playing games on his iPhone before the crash, the investigation showed.
NTSB officials said they were not sure why the Tesla hit the guardrail, but speculated it could have been a faded lane line, too bright sunlight affecting the camera, or too close to the front car.
The survey also found that if the local transport authorities repaired the buffer at the end of the separate diisland in time, Huang might still be alive. Unfortunately, 11 days before the accident, the buffer was damaged in a car accident.
At the hearing of the accident investigation, the NTSB expressed its displeasure with Tesla and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although the NTSB is responsible for investigating traffic accidents, it has only the power to make recommendations, and NHTSA has the authority to implement these recommendations, and manufacturers can take action. Unfortunately, the NTSB issued a safety advisory to Tesla 881 days ago, but has so far denied an echo.
At the hearing, the NTSB reiterated its previous recommendation to Tesla to install safety measures to prevent its self-driving system from operating if conditions do not allow. The NTSB also offered to design a smarter system for Tesla to ensure drivers stay focused.
If Tesla doesn’t add driver attention monitoring, the self-driving system will be abused and similar accidents will occur in the future, it wrote in the report.
The NTSB recommends that NHTSA expand its testing of autonomous driving systems to ensure it avoids common obstacles. It requires the latter to evaluate Autopilot to determine the circumstances under which it can operate safely and to develop and implement monitoring standards for drivers to drive safely to ensure that they maintain their attention when using these assisted driving systems.
NHTSA responded that it was investigating 14 Tesla crashes and would use law enforcement powers if necessary. NHTSA also said it would review the NTSB report, stressing that any commercial vehicle requires drivers to keep control of the vehicle at all times. It stated that attention-related traffic accidents were a serious problem, including those involving advanced assisted driving systems.
NTSB chairman Sam Water said at the hearing: “If you’re driving a partially self-driving car, it’s not self-driving, don’t pretend you really have self-driving, it means you can’t read a book, you can’t watch a movie or a TV show, you can’t text, you can’t play games. And that’s what we found out was happening before the crash.”
Robert Molloy, NTSB’s head of highway safety, said NHTSA has taken a non-aggressive approach to the new self-driving system. He thinks the practice is going astray and says there’s nothing more disappointing than seeing Tesla and NHTSA ignore the advice.
“They need to do more,” Robert Molloy said of the Federal Highway Safety Administration.
The self-driving system is designed to keep the vehicle in its driveway and at a safe distance from the vehicle in front. It can also change lanes with the driver’s permission. Tesla says Autopilot’s goal is to help drivers, who must be ready to intervene.
Sam Waters said the NTSB made recommendations to six automakers in 2017 to fix the problem, but only Tesla did not respond.
Tesla vehicles are known to sense the force the driver exerts on the steering wheel and warn if it does not sense the force. But Ensar Becic, an EXPERT on highway safety at the NTSB, says it’s a poor alternative to monitoring drivers.
Sam Waters said the NTSB had called for technology to interfere with drivers’ use of smartphones while driving to reduce distractions nine years ago, but had not yet seen any action taken by society.
Don Carroll, NTSB’s highway safety project manager, says mobile phone companies should program their phones to automatically lock in distracting features such as games and phones when someone is driving.
The NTSB also accused Mr. Huang’s employer, Apple, of failing to establish strict safety policies for its employees, such as banning the use of mobile devices in non-emergency situations while driving.