I-Team: Tesla coming under new scrutiny

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018
I-Team: Tesla coming under new scrutiny
The ABC7 I-Team confirms the National Transportation Safety Board is expanding its investigation into the crash that killed an Apple engineer in Mountain View ten days ago.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- The ABC7 I-Team confirms the National Transportation Safety Board is expanding its investigation into the crash that killed an Apple engineer in Mountain View ten days ago.

I-Team reporter Dan Noyes is staying in touch with the family as this investigation plays out, even though they tell me they can never see themselves giving an on-camera interview about what happened. It's too painful. But they -- and we -- are highly interested in this investigation.

TESLA CAR FIRE: ABC7 investigates deadly accident on Highway 101 in Mountain View

In the days after the Tesla Model X slammed into the collapsed safety barrier in Mountain View, killing 38-year-old Walter Huang, NTSB investigators focused on what happened after the crash -- the exploding batteries and the difficulty of the cleanup.

But, after the I-Team reported Huang's family told us he complained his Model X steered toward that same barrier 7-10 times -- that he took it to the dealer, but they could not duplicate the problem -- federal investigators now say they are "looking into all aspects of this crash including the driver's previous concerns about the Autopilot."

They added, "The NTSB is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla."

VIDEO: Fiery Tesla crash kills driver in Mountain View

A 38-year-old man was killed when his Tesla crashed and caught on fire in Mountain View.

Industry analyst Ed Niedermeyer describes the crash, "The sun was still relatively low and shining directly into the driver, or directly into the car."

Tesla put out a statement Friday evening that said Huang "had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver's hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision."

I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Victim who died in Tesla crash had complained about Autopilot

Neidermeyer says Tesla has created excitement about the future possibilities of self-driving cars, but the present reality requires caution and driver vigilance.

"This is not an autonomous drive system," says Niedermeyer. "This is a driver assistance system that requires an aware and alert human driver in the loop at all times."

As the I-Team found last week on a ride in a Model X, the Tesla will give a visual warning of hands-off after 30 seconds, and the audible warnings come later. Model X owner Shaun Price admits his attention fades on long drives down I-5, but he keeps alert in traffic: "If I'm a driver and the car is telling me don't let go of the steering wheel and the car is telling me to remain aware of your surroundings al of the time, then the message I'm getting from the technology is we're not perfect yet, so you need to stay in control of the car and know your surroundings."

I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Autopilot part of Tesla crash investigation, I-Team rides in Model X to site

Walter Huang left behind a wife and two children. His brother, Will, wanted me to pass on a message about the more than $33,000 people have donated.

"Me and my family are heartbroken, but we take solace in knowing he has so many wonderful friends who care and grieve for him. Thank you all again from the bottom of my heart."

Here is the full message from Will Huang. As Dan Noyes reported last week, Tesla continues to insist they have no record of Walter Huang complaining about his Autopilot, only his navigation system which is separate from Autopilot.

This is a screenshot of William Huang's message to ABC7 News' Dan Noyes.

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