WASHINGTON — A consumer advocacy group on Friday urged Tesla Inc. to fix what it termed as “flaws” in the automaker’s driver-assistance system Autopilot after a preliminary government report said a driver did not have his hands on the vehicle’s steering wheel in the final six seconds before a fatal crash.
The report issued on Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board said Walter Huang, the driver of the 2017 Model X using Autopilot, had been given two visual alerts and one auditory alert to place his hands on the steering wheel during the trip — but those alerts came more than 15 minutes before the March 23 crash.
He died in hospital soon after the crash.
David Friedman, director of Cars and Product Policy and Analysis for Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said the NTSB’s “alarming report reinforces why Tesla must respond immediately to previous concerns raised about its driver-assist system.”
Friedman said the crash “demonstrates that Tesla’s system can’t dependably navigate common road situations on its own, and fails to keep the driver engaged exactly when it is needed most.”
The NTSB report said the vehicle had sped up from 62 miles (99 km) per hour (mph) to nearly 71 mph (114 km/h) in the three seconds before the crash.
In the minute before the crash, Huang’s hands were on the wheel for a total of 34 seconds, but not in the last six seconds before he struck a crash attenuator and concrete barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, California, the report said.