A consumer advocacy group on Friday urged Tesla 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 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently concluded that the driver of a 2017 Model X, Walter Huang, had Autopilot activated when the vehicle smashed into a crash attenuator and concrete barrier.
In its current iteration, Autopilot can keep a auto in its lane and adjust its speed based on surrounding traffic, among other features. The cruise control maintains a set distance between the cars and traffic in front of them.
A second later, the SUV began a "left steering movement" while still following the other vehicle.
As per the vehicle's programming, the Tesla provided two visual alerts and one auditory alert for the driver to place his hands on the steering wheel prior to the crash. After hitting the attenuator, the Tesla hit two other cars.
At 8 seconds before the crash, the Model X had adaptive cruise control set at 75 miles per hour but was following a slower lead vehicle at about 65 miles per hour.
The NTSB report notes some other significant details about the vehicle and how fast it was going.
Earlier this year a man was killed in a crash with Autopilot engaged in his Model X SUV. Tesla has repeatedly said Autopilot is meant to be used with an attentive driver whose hands are on the wheel, but the most visible accidents involving Autopilot have included reports of distracted drivers.
Four seconds before the crash, the Tesla no longer detected a vehicle in front of it, and with the cruise control engaged and set at 75 mph, it began speeding up, from 62 mph three seconds before impact to 70.8 mph at the time of impact.
According to the report, during the 60 seconds before the crash, Huang's hands were detected on the steering wheel three times for a total of 34 seconds.
In the days after the crash, Huang's wife Savonne said her husband had complained about the system not working properly near the area where the crash occurred.
"Tesla hasn't made sufficient changes to its system to address the NTSB's concerns, and also has never provided detailed data to the public demonstrating the conditions in which Autopilot can safely operate".
In January, a Tesla Model S sedan that may have been using Autopilot hit a parked firetruck on Interstate 405 near Los Angeles.
Huang's family lawyer, Mark Fong, asserts "there was a failure of both the Tesla Autopilot and the automatic braking systems of the vehicle".
Musk didn't say which self-driving features would be included, though he indicated the update would allow Tesla vehicles to perform better in areas where lanes merge on highways. But the company has also heavily promoted its cars' supercharged ability to fend for itself: The Tesla website promises "Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Cars", which it says offer "a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver".
Tesla declined to comment on the NTSB report and did not immediately comment Friday, but said in March that Huang had not braked or taken actions to avoid the crash in the final seconds before the accident.