Tesla reaches settlement in fatal Autopilot accident case

Electric Cars

Tesla has reached a settlement in a case regarding a fatal Autopilot accident, just a day before the trial was set to begin.

Following the filing of a 2018 lawsuit alleging that Tesla’s Autopilot system had caused the accident killing 38-year-old Model X owner, the automaker has settled for an undisclosed amount ahead of the trial. A state court in San Jose, California publicized filings for the case on Monday, though terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Huang, an engineer at Apple, was killed in 2018 when his vehicle veered off of a Mountain View highway into the road barrier, going around 71 mph. According to a subsequent investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Huang was likely distracted and playing a game on his phone prior to the accident.

The NTSB also reported that limitations to Tesla’s Autopilot system had been partly to blame for the accident.

Tesla deep fake argument in Autopilot case ‘deeply troubling,’ Judge says

Tesla argued that Huang caused the crash with his “highly extraordinary misuse of his vehicle and its Autopilot features,” pointing to the fact that he had been playing Total War: Three Kingdoms in rush-hour traffic (via Bloomberg).

According to court filings from Tesla, Huang’s hands were detected to be off of the steering wheel 34 percent of the time in the 19 minutes leading up to the accident, even including the final six seconds.

In the lawsuit, Huang’s family claimed that the vehicle failed to live up to Tesla’s claims, as Walter had believed it “was safer than a human-operated vehicle.”

The family also claimed that the Autopilot system hadn’t been trained to detect barriers where two highways merge, noting that it had become confused and caused the 2017 Model X to exit its lane. Many also expected Huang’s lawyers to claim that Tesla CEO Elon Musk had been aggressive in his promotion of Autopilot as being better than human drivers.

On its website, Tesla writes:

“Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system that enhances safety and convenience behind the wheel. When used properly, Autopilot reduces your overall workload as a driver. Each new Tesla vehicle is equipped with multiple external cameras and powerful vision processing to provide an additional layer of safety.”

Later on the page, Tesla goes on:

“Before enabling Autopilot, the driver first needs to agree to ‘keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times’ and to always ‘maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle.’ Subsequently, every time the driver engages Autopilot, they are shown a visual reminder to ‘keep your hands on the wheel.’”

What are your thoughts? Let me know at zach@teslarati.com, find me on X at @zacharyvisconti, or send us tips at tips@teslarati.com.

Tesla reaches settlement in fatal Autopilot accident case

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