The criticism of Tesla’s Autopilot resurfaced as National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt discussed the role of the system in a 2018 fatal crash in California.
Sumwalt said U.S. regulators have provided “scant oversight” of automakers implementing semi-autonomous driving technologies like Autopilot. However, he singled out the California-based EV maker for criticism.
He chastised the company for ignoring recommendations made by the NTSB in 2017, Reuters noted.
“It’s been 881 days since these recommendations were sent to Tesla. We’re still waiting,” Sumwalt said during a hearing to determine the crash’s probable cause. Tesla officials did not respond to a request for comment from TheDetroitBureau.com.
Sumwalt took the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to task for its role, or lack thereof by his estimation, in regulating the new technology, accusing the agency of a “misguided” and “hands-off” approach.
NHTSA officials disagreed, saying in a statement that all crashes caused by distracted driving, including those in which driver-assistance systems were in use, were a “major concern” and that it planned to review the board’s report.
Additionally, the NTSB pushed NHTSA to push automakers offering semi-autonomous technologies to incorporate safeguards to limit their use “to those conditions for which they were designed.” Thus far, NHTSA hasn’t pursued that strategy.
The nation’s two safety agencies have been at odds when it comes to Autopilot since the first crash in 2016 that involved the technology. NHTSA cleared Tesla’s system of having any impact in the Florida crash. The NTSB said the technology worked as it was supposed, but added that it played a “major role” in the accident.
During his testimony at the hearing, Sumwalt saved his strongest criticism for Tesla, but other automakers with semi-autonomous technology like Cadillac, Nissan and others weren’t exempt from denigration.
“Industry keeps implementing technology in such a way that people can get injured to killed, including this board’s recommendations intended to help them prevent such tragedies,” Sumwalt said.
Today’s hearing involved the fatal crash of Walter Huang, a 38-year-old Apple software engineer, in Mountain View, California. In 2018, his Model X crashed into a safety barrier at 71 mph. The investigation showed that Huang did not have his hands on the wheel at the time of the crash or the 6 seconds preceding it.
However, Huang did put his hands on the wheel repeatedly during his drive that day. It also showed him playing a word game on its iPhone during his commute that day, although investigators were not able to determine if he was playing it at the time of the crash.