Tesla reaches settlement with family of Apple engineer who said Autopilot caused his fatal crash

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By journalsofus.com


Walter Huang died when his Tesla Model

New York

Tesla has settled a high-profile case that put the electric car company and its controversial self-driving system on trial starting on Monday.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a former Apple engineer who died when his Tesla Model The lawsuit could have lasted several weeks, but the parties reached a settlement on Monday.

Walter Huang was killed on March 23, 2018 when his Tesla collided with a concrete highway median in Silicon Valley. The National Transportation Safety Board found in its investigation that Autopilot was on for about 19 minutes before the fatal crash, when the car, traveling at 71 mph, left the highway.

disposal It’s another turning point for the troubled company that has lost popularity and a third of its market value this year. CEO Elon Musk and the company say its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technologies are ahead of the competition and are a big reason why Tesla has become the world’s largest electric vehicle maker – just ahead of Chinese rival BYD. But Huang’s family said Tesla has oversold the capabilities of its Autopilot technology, and it is not as safe to use as advertised.

Huang’s family and representatives for Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the six years since Huang’s fatal crash, Tesla has come under intense scrutiny for its Autopilot technology. After a two-year investigation that analyzed 1,000 Tesla crashes while the vehicles were equipped with Autopilot, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the Autopilot system may give drivers a false sense of security. NHTSA found in December 2023 that it could be easily misused in certain dangerous situations, when Autopilot may be unable to navigate the road safely.

NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board are also investigating crashes involving Tesla vehicles using various driver assistance features, including a series of crashes involving emergency vehicles at the scene of other crashes.

Shortly after the December NHTSA report, Tesla recalled all 2 million of its cars in the United States, giving drivers more warning when Autopilot is on and they aren’t paying attention to the road or keeping their hands on the wheel. Have been.

Yet the company says the technology is safe if used properly and reduces the death rate. Autopilot requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and Tesla says those who use the automated-driving technology must keep their eyes on the road.

Tesla has said that did not happen in the case of Huang’s accident. In a March 30, 2018 blog post, Tesla said Huang’s hands were not observed on his car’s steering wheel six seconds before the crash. The company said it believed Huang was responsible for the crash after investigators found he was playing video games on his phone while Autopilot was engaged. Huang did not attempt to steer his car away from the concrete barrier or apply the brakes before the crash.

Although Huang’s family acknowledged that he was distracted while driving the car, they argued that Tesla was at fault because it falsely marketed Autopilot as self-driving software. He alleged that Tesla knew Autopilot was not ready for prime time and had flaws that could make its use unsafe.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations.

“Mrs. Huang lost her husband, and two children lost their father because Tesla is beta testing its Autopilot software on live drivers,” lawyers bringing the lawsuit filed in a California state court in a May 2019 complaint. B Mark Fong said.

If a jury had ruled in favor of Huang’s family, Tesla could have been forced to pay damages, and they could have quickly added up. Wrongful death lawsuits involving large companies have sometimes resulted in awards of $1 billion.

The promise of Autopilot has helped boost Tesla’s stock in recent years and made it the most valuable automaker in the world — even if its stock is one of the worst performers in 2024. Musk has touted assisted autonomous driving in October 2023 on a call with analysts. The potential to make Tesla the most valuable company the world has ever seen.

Tesla stock (TSLA) rose 5% on Monday.

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