Safety probe detects Tesla pilot killed in crash reported of previous autopilot issues
A Tesla driver killed in a March 2018 crash in California while using the autopilot driver assistance system had reported that on previous trips the car had pulled away from the freeway, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in documents released Tuesday.
Walter Huang, a 38-year-old Apple software engineer, was driving his Tesla Model X in Mountain View on autopilot at around 70 mph when he crashed into a security barrier. The NTSB said Huang reported problems on previous trips with the autopilot steering the steering wheel to an area between a freeway ramp and the lane. It is a moving offense to cross this section of the road, known as the “gore zone”.
Vehicle data showed that on previous trips, Huang took corrective action after the autopilot headed for the area. The NTSB said that in the fatal crash, Huang’s hands were not detected on the steering wheel in the last six seconds before the crash. There was no evidence of braking or avoidance.
The NTSB, which also found evidence that the driver was using a smartphone during the trip, is planning a hearing on February 25 to determine the probable cause of the crash. Tesla did not immediately comment.
Tesla drivers say they can avoid holding the wheel for long periods of time when using the autopilot, but the company advises drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and be careful when using the system.
During the last 18-minute autopilot segment of the trip, the system did not detect his hands on the wheel about a third of the time, and the system issued two visual alerts for unattended driving and one audible alert.
The NTSB said Huang used an Apple-owned iPhone during his trip and the records show evidence of data transmissions.
Logs recovered with help from Apple show that a “Three Kingdoms” word-building game app was active during Huang’s fatal journey.
The NTSB said that “most gamers have both hands on the phone to support the device and manipulate in-game actions,” but added that the log data “does not provide enough information to determine whether the Tesla driver was holding the phone or how interactive it was with the game at the time of the crash. “
The NTSB, which previously criticized Tesla Autopilot’s driver assistance system after a fatal accident in Florida in 2016, said in September that the design of the system allowed a “driver to disengage from the task of driving.” in a previous accident in California.
The NTSB also released documents in its investigation into a third fatal Tesla autopilot crash in March 2019 in Delray Beach, Florida, which showed no evidence that the driver’s hands were driving for the past 8 seconds. . The driver of the Tesla Model 3 did not react before hitting a semi-trailer, the NTSB said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)
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