NTSB criticizes Apple for role in fatal Tesla crash

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A Tesla Model X similar to this one crashed in 2018.
A Tesla Model X similar to this one was involved in a fatal crash last year while the driver was on his iPhone.
Photo: Tesla

The National Transportation Safety Board criticized Tesla for a 2018 crash that killed the driver, but also said Apple played a role in the accident.

The driver was an Apple employee, and was using his iPhone with the car in Tesla’s Autopilot mode.

The NTSB primarily faulted the Tesla Model X for causing the wreck. The driver, Walter Huang, had the vehicle’s driver-assistance system engaged when the car drove into a barrier.

Federal investigators called out Tesla for enabling drivers to treat Autopilot mode as if it was fully capable of controlling a car. “It’s time to stop enabling drivers in any partially automated vehicle to pretend that they have driverless cars, because they don’t have driverless cars,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said, according to Bloomberg.

Apple caught some of the blame

Huang should have been paying attention and not playing a game on his iPhone, noted the investigators. “The crash driver’s employer, Apple, is a tech leader, but like most employers, has yet to develop a distracted driving policy,” said Sumwalt.

The NTSB decision on this crash is that Tesla’s Autopilot system caused the crash, but Huang could have prevented it if he hadn’t been distracted.

Apple introduced Do Not Disturb While Driving in iOS 11, in hopes of cutting down on distracted driving. This feature automatically suppresses all notifications while an iPhone is traveling in a car. It apparently wasn’t being used during this crash because Huang mistakenly trusted his car to drive itself.