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Tesla Autopilot, Distracted Driver At Fault In 2018 Fatal Crash: NTSB

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A 2018 fatal crash involving a Tesla Inc. vehicle was likely caused by the car's autopilot system as well as distracted driving, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB.

The driver of the Tesla's Model X electric-powered sport utility vehicle, Walter Huang, was killed when it collided with a damaged crash attenuator on March 23, 2018 in Mountain View, California.

NTSB investigators determined that the probable cause of the crash was the Tesla advanced driver-assistance system called Autopilot steering the sport utility vehicle into a highway gore area due to system limitations.

The driver was also likely distracted by playing a mobile game in his cell phone before the crash due to overreliance on the Autopilot partial driving automation system.

The investigators also mention various factors that contributed to the crash, including Tesla vehicle's ineffective monitoring of driver engagement.

They also found that the severity of the driver's injuries was the vehicle's impact with a crash attenuator that was already damaged and nonoperational following a previous crash. It was not repaired by the California Department of Transportation's maintenance division in a timely manner.

The NTSB findings come after nearly two years of investigation into the crash.

Tesla's Autopilot system has faced much criticism following many fatal U.S. crashes involving Tesla vehicles. The NTSB earlier had said the system's design permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task. Earlier, U.S. Senator Ed Markey demanded new safeguards for the system.

According to Tesla, Autopilot enables the car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane. But, the system does not make the vehicle autonomous.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA is investigating a fatal crash involving Tesla vehicle on December 29 last year in Southern California. Two people died and two others were injured in the crash between a 2019 Tesla Model S and a 2006 Honda Civic.

The auto safety agency is also investigating a Connecticut crash in which a Tesla Model 3 rear-ended a parked police car while operating on Autopilot.

In August last year, a Tesla Model 3 electric car, which was on autopilot, caught fire after crashing into a parked tow truck in Moscow.

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