NTSB lays partial blame on Apple for fatal Tesla crash involving employee

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The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board in a hearing on Tuesday knocked Apple for failing to enforce policies that restrict employees from using smartphones while driving, a practice that could have saved the life of engineer Walter Huang.

Tesla Model X


In 2018, Huang was involved in a fatal crash in Mountain View, Calif., when the Autopilot system on his Tesla Model X failed to recognize an obstacle, plowing the car headlong into a highway barrier at 71 miles per hour. Two cars subsequently hit Huang's vehicle and the Tesla's high-voltage battery was breached, resulting in a fire. Huang succumbed to his injuries after being transported to a nearby hospital.

At the hearing today, NTSB classified Huang, who was playing a game on a company-issued mobile device at the time of the crash, as a distracted driver, reports CNBC. Both Apple and Tesla are partially to blame for the engineer's death, according to remarks made by NTSB officials.

Tesla was taken to task for failing to prevent misuse of Autopilot, a driver assistance feature included in its range of cars and SUVs. The system's forward collision warning system failed to alert Huang to the approaching barrier, nor did its automatic emergency braking system activate prior to impact.

Bruce Landsberg, a vice chairman for NTSB, called Tesla's Autosteer feature "completely inadequate." The feature is designed to navigate tight roads and keep vehicles in their lane while traveling at highway speeds.

The automaker has been criticized for muddying already murky automated driving waters with its Autopilot branding. Consumers are either not clear about vehicle automation limitations or disregard warnings that require drivers to supervise onboard systems at all times and intervene when necessary.

Tesla's Autopilot is classified as a level 2 automated system, far from a theoretical level 5 self-driving car capable of acting as a user's personal chauffeur. Still, as noted by NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt, Huang was "using level 2 automation as if it were full automation."

Sumwalt also laid blame on Apple, saying in a statement, "The driver in this crash was employed by Apple -- a tech leader. But when it comes to recognizing the need for a company PED policy, Apple is lagging because they don't have such a policy."

The comments dovetailed with NTSB arguments revolving around employer responsibility. During the hearing, NTSB officials noted companies need to enact strict policies prohibiting the use of cellphones while driving. Apple currently lacks such rules.

"We expect our employees to follow the law," Apple said in a statement to CNBC.

Beyond corporate measures, NTSB argued a case for technological solutions like a lock-out mechanism that restricts mobile device access when a vehicle is in motion. Apple's has incorporated such capabilities into its iOS mobile operating system with a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" option, but the feature is disabled by default.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 2,351member
    How do you enforce without interfering personal freedom?
  • Reply 2 of 57
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,846member
    IPhones have a driving mode where they limit incoming messages and usage. Anything more then that, such as defeating the mode and playing a game while he’s supposed to be driving the damn car is the drivers fault. Maybe they want iPhones to shut themselves OFF when in a moving vehicle?
    caladanianminicoffee
  • Reply 3 of 57
    Playing a damn game?
    He may have been a smart guy, but that day he won an award from Darwin.
    macseekerzeus423seanjzroger73DogpersonMacQc1st
  • Reply 4 of 57
    A person tragically lost their life.  We lose 39,000 people annually to driving fatalities and many more get injured. 

    The NTSB needs to driving home two messages: DO NOT drive while distracted or impaired. DO NOT rely on self driving features.

    Blaming Apple muddies the water, obscures the message.

    russwbaconstangtmaymacseekerstompypscooter63randominternetpersonzroger73Dogpersonkudu
  • Reply 5 of 57
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,319member
    DAalseth said:
    IPhones have a driving mode where they limit incoming messages and usage. Anything more then that, such as defeating the mode and playing a game while he’s supposed to be driving the damn car is the drivers fault. Maybe they want iPhones to shut themselves OFF when in a moving vehicle?
    Last sentence:
    Apple's has incorporated such capabilities into its iOS mobile operating system with a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" option, but the feature is disabled by default.
    seanjsandorchemengin1
  • Reply 6 of 57
    They’re in a fantasy world if they think Apple need to restate driving laws in their contract and that this would have any effect on driver behaviour. 

    Meanwhile:
    Tesla car with feature improperly marketed as “autopilot”.....  let’s blame Apple. 
    baconstangtmayjony0stompypscooter63randominternetpersonmwhiteradarthekatrevenantDogperson
  • Reply 7 of 57
    While I feel soory for his family. Using a phone while in charge of a car ? Clearly people are very stupid. I don't even use hands free. Phones should be band in cars full stop. Fed up sitting traffic jams because some idiot thinks using a phone, hands free or not, is safe. More often than not killing someone else. And yes I do run my business and drive about seeing clients, but you can wait to answer the phone, better than being dead.
    Rant over.
    gatorguybaconstangseanjjony0zroger73
  • Reply 8 of 57
    Only YOU can prevent Darwin Awards.

    The NTSB are idiots.  Do they realize how many kids own iPhones and drive (as passengers) in cars and busses?  Ever heard of carpooling, Taxies & Uber? How is Apple supposed to know without violating users privacy? 

    jony0zroger73kiowavtcaladanian
  • Reply 9 of 57
    gatorguy said:
    DAalseth said:
    IPhones have a driving mode where they limit incoming messages and usage. Anything more then that, such as defeating the mode and playing a game while he’s supposed to be driving the damn car is the drivers fault. Maybe they want iPhones to shut themselves OFF when in a moving vehicle?
    Last sentence:
    Apple's has incorporated such capabilities into its iOS mobile operating system with a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" option, but the feature is disabled by default.
    Even if enabled, the guy would have just chosen the “I’m not driving” option, since he clearly had full faith in Autopilot. 
    mknelsontmaynetroxjony0stompypscooter63zroger73mwhiteradarthekatkiowavt
  • Reply 10 of 57
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,950member
    It's already against California law to hold a cell phone while driving or to even have a laptop computer (even if closed) in the front cabin area. If the NTSB is going to blame Apple, why not also blame the victim's parents? Is the NTSB trying to distract from Tesla's false advertising of "auto pilot" that isn't actually autopilot?
    edited February 2020 baconstangjony0stompyzroger73linkmanStrangeDays
  • Reply 11 of 57
    I can see them now blood sucking parasites  sorry, respectable lawyers rubbing their hand together over another death they can rip money from. I wonder what is it like not having a conscience to guide you.   
    jony0DAalsethzroger73
  • Reply 12 of 57
    That’s one heck of a reach by the NTSB. “Apple failed to prevent a driver from using bad judgement.”
    edited February 2020 agilealtitudejony0stompypscooter63zroger73DogpersonMplsPkiowavtcaladanian
  • Reply 13 of 57
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,016member
    Utter insanity driven by an extremely legalistic mind.  The only thing that please such people is complete and utter control of the human mind.  To blame Apple for not having a "don't break the law" policy in place is little more than legal meddling for the sake of meddling.  It's just another way to point the finger at somebody else rather than the person who is dead because of his own deed.

    While on this topic, I also think fully autonomous driving is laughable in light of how stupid and utterly brain dead our existing tech is today.  I doubt we'll ever see it in my lifetime, and I am talking about a 100% autonomous system that lets everyone even sleep in the car if they want to, handling snow, typhoons, bridge-out scenarios -- you name it.  There's a long road of travel before that is achieved, and I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't take an advanced AI brain to even write that level of sophisticated, near error-free code.
    baconstangjony0zroger73muthuk_vanalingamFileMakerFellerjdb8167
  • Reply 14 of 57
    You can't legislate against stupid.

    Also, rhetorically...

    Who hires/appoints these people that work for federal agencies, anyway?  Apple and Tesla are to blame because the driver broke multiple laws and misused/abused technology?

    In the world I live in, I have to take responsibility for my own actions.
    SpamSandwichzeus423jony0mwhite
  • Reply 15 of 57
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,112member
    gatorguy said:
    DAalseth said:
    IPhones have a driving mode where they limit incoming messages and usage. Anything more then that, such as defeating the mode and playing a game while he’s supposed to be driving the damn car is the drivers fault. Maybe they want iPhones to shut themselves OFF when in a moving vehicle?
    Last sentence:
    Apple's has incorporated such capabilities into its iOS mobile operating system with a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" option, but the feature is disabled by default.
    Even if enabled, the guy would have just chosen the “I’m not driving” option, since he clearly had full faith in Autopilot. 
    Exactly. I disable mine.
  • Reply 16 of 57
    The blame lies almost fully at the hands of the driver this was not the first time he had driven a Tesla and so he knew the shortcomings of Autopilot as anyone who has ever used it knows them and he knew there were problems using autopilot in the area of the accident, which he had mentioned to family members before.  Autopilot is essentially cruise control that keeps your car in between the lane markers and a specified distant from the vehicle in front of you that’s it nothing more.  One of the problems I have found with Autopilot is when the lane markers disappear, say at an on or off ramp, if the right lane marker disappears momentarily at the ramp it will start to shift to the right until it sees the off/on ramp right marker and then shift back when you pass the ramp that is why I never use Autopilot when I am driving on the far right lane.

    The ignorance of people will always be a problem whether they are texting on the phone while driving or setting off a firework sitting on top of their head sadly it is part of the human race and it will never be eliminated.

    Once full self driving has been realized there will be significantly fewer car accidents and loss of life from those accidents it’s just going to take time to get there. 


  • Reply 17 of 57
    Meanwhile:
    Tesla car with feature improperly marketed as “autopilot”.....  let’s blame Apple. 
    How exactly is it improperly marketed? The capabilities of Tesla’s autopilot is on par with most autopilot systems you find in aircraft. Just because a certain segment of the population is ignorant of what an autopilot actually is doesn’t mean Tesla shouldn’t be able to use that name. All that really matters is that Tesla educates people who actually buy their cars. 

    Tesla drivers should be perfectly aware of the limitations of the system - they’re spelled out in great detail in the manual, it makes you agree when you first turn it on that you the driver are responsible and to always pay attention, and it warns you every time you activate it and very often during use to keep your hands on the wheel and pay attention. Any Tesla driver who uses autopilot and claims to not understand this is either being intentionally obtuse or is a moron who shouldn’t be allowed to drive a bicycle. 

    It sucks that Huang made several very poor decisions that ended up costing him his life, but I’m mostly glad that his mistakes didn’t kill anyone else. 
    edited February 2020 seanjjony0muthuk_vanalingamMacQcFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 18 of 57
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,846member
    gatorguy said:
    DAalseth said:
    IPhones have a driving mode where they limit incoming messages and usage. Anything more then that, such as defeating the mode and playing a game while he’s supposed to be driving the damn car is the drivers fault. Maybe they want iPhones to shut themselves OFF when in a moving vehicle?
    Last sentence:
    Apple's has incorporated such capabilities into its iOS mobile operating system with a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" option, but the feature is disabled by default.
    Wasn’t on either my SE after I upgraded or on my 11. It was enabled from day one and Ive never enabled it.
  • Reply 19 of 57
    Yep. Blame the distraction and not the driver. Earlier reports noted that the driver had reported problems with AutoPilot at this or other locations before the crash, is almost believe its was passive suicide.  Driver must have been so engrossed elsewhere that he had no idea where he was. 
    MacQc
  • Reply 20 of 57
    Sumwalt also laid blame on Apple, saying in a statement, "The driver in this crash was employed by Apple — a tech leader. But when it comes to recognizing the need for a company PED policy, Apple is lagging because they don't have such a policy."

    What do performance enhancing drugs have to do with distracted driving?  

    And show me any company in the world that has a policy about how employees drive when they aren't on the clock.  I bet those NTSB employees are governed by no such policy.
    zroger73baconstangsailorpaulFileMakerFeller
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