An official government hearing is currently underway.
The US National Transportation Safety Board is holding a second hearing right now regarding a fatal crash involving Tesla's Autopilot system driver-assist system. The goal of the hearing, Reuters reports, is to determine the likely cause of the March 2018 crash involving a Tesla Model X driven by Walter Huang, a former Apple employee.
Huang was traveling to work on California Highway 101 when he collided with a safety barrier while his Model X was engaged in Autopilot. Those following the Autopilot controversy will know this isn't the first time the system has been suspected of being faulty and potentially dangerous. For its part, Tesla has not filed formal responses to recommendations made by the NHTSB dating back two years. In other words, the agency is pressing ahead despite Tesla's seemingly lack of cooperation.
Typically, automakers respond to safety recommendations within 90 days. Tesla, however, has said it has updated Autopilot to issue more frequent warnings to drivers who aren't paying attention to the road. Autopilot has caused confusion and apparently continues to do so based on its name. You see, Autopilot is not a fully autonomous driving system. It's semi-autonomous and even Tesla says drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel for any potential scenario.
But the NHTSB is interested in other factors as a result of an engaged Autopilot system, among them distracted driving and highway infrastructure. In Huang's case, not only did his Model X slam into a highway barrier but his hands were not on the steering wheel just six seconds prior to the crash, a fact recently uncovered by investigators. There was also no evidence of braking or evasive action. Recovered data logs also show he was playing a game on his iPhone.
Days before his death, Huang reported that his Model X steered away from the highway on more than one occasion and he was forced to intervene. Knowing this, why was he playing a game on his smartphone at that specific troublesome stretch of highway? It's impossible to know the answer, but the NHTSB still seems determined to issue new safety regulations regarding Autopilot - with or without Tesla's input.