A consumer advocacy group asks Tesla to fix flaws in its Autopilot...

A consumer advocacy group asks Tesla to fix flaws in its Autopilot system

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A consumer advocacy group recently urged Tesla Inc. (TSLA) to fix flaws in its Autopilot system following an initial government report revealed that a driver was not holding the vehicle’s steering wheel just before a fatal crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a report published on Thursday that Walter Huang, who was driving the 2017 Model X with engaged Autopilot, had received two visual alerts and one audio notification to hold the steering wheel. However, those alerts came about 15 minutes before the crash that took place on March 23.

The vehicle speed increased to about 71 miles per hour from 62 mph in the three seconds before the crash. Huang’s hands were not on the wheel during the last six second before his car bumped into a concrete barrier on U.S. Highway in California, according to the report.

Huang lost his life in the hospital soon after the accident.

Director of Cars and Product Policy and Analysis for Consumers Union, David Friedman said that the recently published report by NTSB reinforces why Tesla must immediately respond to earlier concerns regarding its driver-assist system. The crash shows the company’s Autopilot system can’t reliably navigate common road situations on its own and is unable to keep the driver engaged just when it is needed the most, Friedman added.

However, Tesla has said several times that drivers are supposed to hold the steering wheel all time when the Autopilot system is engaged. But many drivers ignore the instructions while using the feature.

The Palo Alto, California-based electric car maker didn’t comment on the latest NTSB report. However, the company said in March that Huang hadn’t done anything in the last moments to prevent crash.

A lawyer representing Huang’s family said the NTSB report supports their concerns that Tesla’s Autopilot and the automatic braking system failed to avoid crash.

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I handle much of news coverage for tech stocks, and occasionally cover companies in different sectors. In the past, I've written for other financial sites and published independent investment research, primarily on tech companies. I have a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University. I'm based out of San Diego, but grew up in Southern New Jersey. I play basketball and tennis in my spare time, am a long-time (and long-suffering) fan of Philadelphia's sports teams, and alternate daily between using an iPad Air, a Galaxy Note 3, and one or two Windows PCs.

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