Tesla Model XSource: Tesla

What you need to know

  • The National Transportation Safety Board has called out Apple over its lack of a strict policy banning the use of mobile devices whilst driving.
  • Apple Engineer Walter Huang was tragically killed in 2018, whilst at the wheel of a Tesla Model X.
  • An investigation into the crash found that Huang was driving with Tesla's Autopilot feature, and was gaming on a work-issued phone at the time of the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board has called out Apple over the fact it doesn't have a policy banning the use of mobile devices whilst driving after one of its engineers was killed in a crash in 2018.

Walter Huang, an Apple engineer and game developer, was killed in 2018 in Mountain View, California, whilst driving a Tesla Model X. An investigation into the crash found that he had been in the car whilst Tesla's Autopilot feature was engaged and that he was gaming on a work-issued device when the accident happened. As reported by CNBC:

The NTSB said that although Huang was a distracted driver, Tesla's forward collision warning system did not provide an alert, and its automatic emergency braking system did not activate as his Model X SUV with Autopilot switched on accelerated into a highway barrier.

A vice chairman for NTSB, Bruce Landsberg, called Tesla's Autosteer "completely inadequate," during the hearing. Autosteer, a beta feature of Autopilot, is supposed to keep the vehicle in its lane when cruising at highway speeds.

Whilst Tesla has taken the brunt of criticism over this tragic event, the NTSB also reserved some criticism for Apple:

The NTSB also called out Huang's employer, Apple, for failing to set a strict policy for its employees banning non-emergency use of mobile devices while driving. Apple told CNBC, "We expect our employees to follow the law."

An NTSB statement said:

Let me circle back to the issue of driver distraction – one that involves the role of employers. Employers have a critical role in fighting distracted driving. At the NTSB, we believe in leading by example. Over a decade ago, under the leadership of my former colleague and NTSB chairman, Debbie Hersman, NTSB implemented a broad-reaching policy which bans using Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) while driving. We know that such policies save lives.

The driver in this crash was employed by Apple - a tech leader. But when it comes to recognizing the need for a company PED policy, Apple is lagging because they don't have such a policy. Today, we will discuss the importance of company PED policies.

It is of course illegal to use a cellphone whilst driving in California, that goes for all handheld devices. Drivers under the age of 18 are not even permitted to use hands-free cellphones, and texting is also banned.