Tesla's Autopilot feature questioned in deadly South Bay crash, NTSB report says

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- A preliminary report released Tuesday morning by the National Transportation Safety Board is shedding new light on a 2018 crash involving a Tesla vehicle that claimed the life of an Apple engineer in Mountain View and calls into question the safety of the company's Autopilot feature.

According to the NTSB, an Autopilot-activated Tesla vehicle that slammed into a Highway 101 safety barrier in Mountain View in March 2018, had steered toward the same spot near the Highway 85 interchange on multiple occasions.

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Investigators say the driver, Foster City resident Walter Huang, had to manually take control of the vehicle during earlier trips to stay in his lane.

Documents provided by the agency confirm some of the concerns that Huang's family previously shared with the I-Team's Dan Noyes.

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With data from Tesla, the NTSB said Tuesday that Huang didn't have his hands on the steering wheel in the six seconds leading up to the crash. The agency also says he had a game up on his mobile device during the drive, but they couldn't determine how engaged he was at the time of the collision.

The federal safety agency previously rebuked Caltrans over the crash, saying it needed to move faster to repair highway safety barriers damaged by vehicles. In this case, the barrier had been damaged 11 days earlier by another vehicle that crashed. Family members believe Huang could still be alive if that cushion had been in place.

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In a statement, Caltrans said in part that it "has identified and is implementing several steps to enhance monitoring and tracking of the repair of damage to highway infrastructure. These efforts include updates to its policies and maintenance manual, training of staff, and enhanced reporting on the timely repair of high priority traffic safety devices."

The NTSB has yet to determine who was at fault for the accident. Tesla, which is based in Fremont, did not return our request for comment.

Tesla and Caltrans are currently being sued by the Huang family.

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