Regulators make unintelligible decisions and incoherent statements all the time. But in doling out blame for the death of Apple employee Walter Huang, who crashed his Tesla Model X while playing a video game, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) really takes the cake.
It is clear who the culprit was – a distracted driver who misused his Model X’s partially-automated driving system. But the innovation-hostile NTSB didn’t pass up a chance to slam Apple for the most spurious of reasons.
After justifiably arguing that Tesla’s Autopilot system did not respond as it should have, the federal agency then ridiculously turned its attention to Huang’s employer. Per the NTSB, Apple has failed by not banning its employees from using mobile devices in non-emergency situations while driving!
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said:
Apple has yet to recognize their own responsibility as an employer. They have failed to say [to their] 135,000 employees that we care about you, and we don’t want you to go out and kill yourself or others on the roadway. Apple has failed in that respect.
This is ludicrous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is burdening an employer with the role of playing nanny to employees.
While federal law requires that employers ban employees from conducting company business on their personal devices when driving, that was not what Huang was doing.
It’s insane to require a company to painstakingly draft corporate policies that should be common sense.
And how practical would it be to enforce such policies, assuming you could get past laughing at their sheer absurdity?
Even more alarming is the NTSB’s proposal to require smartphone makers to install bloatware on every device to protect irresponsible drivers from their own recklessness.
Don Karol, NTSB’s project manager for highway safety, said Apple should introduce features aimed at disabling all phone functions while driving:
Lockout mechanisms should be default setting and should automatically lock out distracting functions.
Already, iOS 11 switches off distracting notifications when the driver is behind the wheel. This is optional, though – not the default setting.
The problem with Karol’s recommendation is that it unfairly targets just one particular cause of distracted driving.
But what about other distractions? Let’s take eating.
Shouldn’t the NTSB recommend that McDonald’s inject an electronic chip into their burgers that triggers an alarm every time a driver tries to take a bite while they’re behind the wheel?
But at least the NTSB got one thing right in its report.
The body criticized Tesla over its partial self-driving technology that has given a significant number of drivers a false sense of invincibility.
Chairman Sumwalt said:
it’s time to stop enabling drivers in any partially automated vehicle to pretend that they have driverless cars.
That’s just about the only accurate thing the federal agency said after investigating Apple employee Huang’s death in a Tesla Model X.
Disclaimer: This article represents the author’s opinion and should not be considered investment or trading advice from CCN.com.