Tesla Autopilot crash pilot “playing a video game”
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has declared the car to be semi-autonomous using Tesla’s Autopilot software.
Tesla asks drivers to keep their hands on the wheel in autopilot mode.
But the NTSB said more accidents were predictable if Tesla didn’t implement changes to its autopilot system.
The authority has it, following the March 2018 accident.
Tesla’s autopilot software steered the vehicle into the triangular “gore zone” at a highway intersection, and accelerated through a concrete barrier.
The front of the Tesla parted from the rear, causing two other drivers to crash.
Tesla driver Walter Huang, 38, was rushed to hospital but died from his injuries. The other drivers survived.
The NTSB said:
The use of Tesla’s Autopilot software has been implicated in several crashes.
The system allows the car to operate semi-autonomously, changing lanes and adjusting its speed.
But critics say that the “Autopilot” brand makes some drivers think that the car drives completely autonomously.
The NTSB said the pilot was “too dependent” on the software.
Tesla instructs drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while using the autopilot, and an audible warning will sound if they do not.
But the NTSB said that “monitoring the torque applied to the steering wheel by the driver is an ineffective proxy for driver engagement.”
“If Tesla does not incorporate system protections that limit the use of the autopilot system to the conditions for which it was designed, continued use of the system beyond its area of operational design is foreseeable and the risk of future accidents will remain, “he said.
The NTSB concluded its report with several recommendations, including:
He also suggested that smartphone makers should develop a “distracted driving lockout mechanism” to “disable all driver distraction features when a vehicle is in motion, but which allow the device to be used in the event emergency”.
And he urged Apple to “implement a company policy that prohibits the non-emergency use of portable electronic devices while driving by all employees and contractors.”
The NTSB also found that a shock absorbing safety barrier hit by the Tesla was “in a damaged state and not operational at the time of the collision”.
He said the California Highway Patrol had not reported any damage from a previous accident and that it was “likely” that the Tesla driver would have survived the accident if the barrier had been replaced.
BBC News contacted Tesla for its response.