Apple Engineer Involved in Fatal Accident in 2018 Complained About Tesla's Autopilot

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【Summary】The U.S. National Transportation Safety Boards released documents regarding the 2018 fatal incident involving a Tesla Model X that stated the Apple engineer who died in the accident complained about a possible malfunction with the SUV’s Autopilot system.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Feb 16, 2020 7:00 AM PT
Apple Engineer Involved in Fatal Accident in 2018 Complained About Tesla's Autopilot

Back in March 2018, an Apple engineer died in a fatal accident involving his Tesla Model X and a concrete barrier. The incident occurred on a Silicon Valley freeway in Mountain View, California. It has taken a while, but now the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released documents in regard to the incident, as the government agency is investigating the crash.

NTSB Found Previous Complaints

The NTSB found that Apple engineer Walter Huang had complained about a possible malfunction with the Model X's Autopilot system for the accident. Huang reportedly told his wife that Autopilot had previously veered the SUV toward the same barrier that claimed his life on U.S. 101 earlier. "Walter said the car would veer toward the barrier in the mornings when he went to work," said the Huang family's attorney in a response to the agency's questions.

The attorney also claims that Huang described Autopilot's tendency to malfunction to his brother "in the same general area where the crash occurred." Huang also described issues with Autopilot to a friend on how a recent patch to the Autopilot system affected its performance and created the issue of veering that eventually claimed his life, claims the lawyer.

For what it's worth, the attorney claims that Huang took his Tesla to a service center to fix an issue with the navigation system, it was reportedly a "navigation error." Tesla couldn't duplicate the issue and the system was not fixed.

As The Detroit News reports, the Huang family is suing Tesla and California's Department of Transportation for allegedly failing to maintain the highway. CNBC claims that a report from the agency points to a failure on the state's part to fix the barrier that was damaged in a non-fatal incident involving a Toyota Prius 11 days prior to Huang's fatal accident.

Autopilot Safe Or Dangerous?

The NTSB board will hold a hearing on the crash on February 25. At that time, the agency will determine what caused the incident and make safety recommendations for going forward.

Autopilot is Tesla's semi-autonomous system that can handle the majority of driving on some roads by keeping a vehicle at a set distance behind a lead vehicle. The system also allows the vehicle to change lanes without any input from the driver. Tesla also sells a self-driving feature for its vehicles that brings Navigate on Autopilot, Autopark, Summon, and Smart Summon. Navigate on Autopilot is a feature that's in Beta. It follows a set destination in the navigation system to suggest lane changes, taking the correct exit, navigating interchanges, and engaging the turn signal.

Despite all of the autonomous and semi-autonomous capabilities, Tesla claims that "active driver supervision" is required and that the features, being as advanced as they are, "do not make the vehicle autonomous."

This isn't the first accident involving Tesla's Autopilot system. Unfortunately, there have been multiple fatal accidents that have occurred when Autopilot has been engaged. Some blame Tesla for making Autopilot available when the automaker still hasn't worked out all of its quirks. Others believe that Autopilot is one of the few incredible features that separates Teslas from other vehicles. 

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