Tesla Autopilot system cited as one of many probable causes for 2018 fatality

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In recent years self-driving and autonomous vehicles have come into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. This as a handful of cars have been involved in crashes, some of which were fatal.

Such an incident occurred in 2018 involving a Tesla Model X which crashed into a concrete barrier and now the US’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has completed its two-year long investigation of the fatality.

According to its findings the Tesla Autopilot system was not solely to blame, but was certainly one of the contributing factors to the crash.

“Based on the findings of its investigation the NTSB issued a total of nine safety recommendations whose recipients include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, SAE International, Apple Inc., and other manufacturers of portable electronic devices. The NTSB also reiterated seven previously issued safety recommendations,” the organisation explained in a statement.

“The NTSB determined the Tesla ‘Autopilot’ system’s limitations, the driver’s overreliance on the ‘Autopilot’ and the driver’s distraction – likely from a cell phone game application – caused the crash. The Tesla vehicle’s ineffective monitoring of driver engagement was determined to have contributed to the crash,” it adds.

One of the other contributing factors to the fatality was the fact that the crash attenuator for the concrete barrier was not repaired properly. If it had been the NTSB says the Tesla car driver, Walter Huang, may have survived.

As such it looks like the Tesla Autopilot cannot be cited as the main reason for the fatality, but the NTSB does say that more needs to be done by carmakers to ensure their self-driving technology is better trained and attuned to avoid such incidents in future.

Added to this is a more concerted efforts from smartphone companies to assist in stopping any distracting applications or games from being operated while users are driving.

Whether either of these points can be addressed remains to be seen, but regardless it looks like autonomous driving is still far from perfect.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Editor of Hypertext. Covers smartphones, IoT, 5G, cloud computing and a few things in between. Also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games when not taking the hatchet to stories.