In 2018, an Apple engineer that drove a Tesla Model X reportedly died after using Tesla’s boasted Autopilot feature. In the reports, it was mentioned that the driver had already filed complaints to Tesla on his car’s unusual veering when using Autopilot. However, the company did not seem to properly repair the said “navigation error” leading to his death.
Initially, reports said that Huang died after driving Tesla Model X in an autopilot mode. He was driving at about 70 mph when suddenly his car crashed at a safety barrier in Mountain View, California.
Before the accident, Huang was already complaining to Tesla regarding his SUV’s uncontrollably veering towards the same barrier where he died. However, Tesla unable to fix the said error.
“Walter said the car would veer toward the barrier in the mornings when he went to work,” the Huang family’s attorney wrote in response to the U.S National Transportation Safety Board.
The family of Huang already filed cases against Tesla and California’s Department of Transportation due to their failure of keeping the car and the road safe for drivers.
However, on Tuesday, Feb. 11, NTSB finally released the result of the investigation concluding that the deceased driver seemed to be using a smartphone while driving Tesla’s vehicle.
Data showed that Huang’s hands were not detected by the vehicle’s steering wheel, seconds before the accident. The NTSB also mentioned that there were pieces of evidence that the driver was using his smartphone, which can be the leading cause of why the autopilot feature malfunctioned.
As explained, Tesla had already told its drivers that autopilot feature is designed for a ‘full-self-driving’; however, it is still highly recommended for drivers to put their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention while using the system.
This was then, explained by the NTSB that Huang probably did not put his hands on the steering wheel for a long time causing the vehicle to experience two visual alerts for hands-off driving operation and one auditory signal.
Worse, Huang’s iPhone even showed that a word-building game application “Three Kingdoms”, was active on his phone, seconds before the reported accident– suggesting that the driver was playing a game while his car was malfunctioning.
Tesla first launched its Autopilot feature way back 2014 for its Tesla Model S. After a couple of years; Tesla continued to advance its technology into providing “full self-driving capability” to their latest Tesla model vehicles including Tesla Model X.
As of now, the company has not yet commented on the said accident, but NTSB plans to schedule a hearing on Feb. 25 to invite both parties on questioning the said Autopilot accident that killed Huang.