Tesla is settling with the family of an Apple engineer who said Autopilot caused his fatal crash

Tesla is settling with the family of an Apple engineer who said Autopilot caused his fatal crash

New York

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

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Jury selection was set to begin Monday in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the family of a former Apple engineer who died after his Tesla Model X crashed while the Autopilot feature was engaged. The case could have dragged on for several weeks, but the parties settled on Monday.

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

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

Representatives for the Huang family and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tesla has been under intense scrutiny for its Autopilot technology in the six years since Huang’s fatal crash. After a two-year study that analyzed 1,000 Tesla crashes while the cars were on Autopilot, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the Autopilot system could give drivers a false sense of security. It can easily be misused in certain dangerous situations when Autopilot may fail to safely steer the road, NHTSA found in December 2023.

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

Immediately following the December NHTSA report, Tesla recalled all 2 million of its vehicles in the United States, giving drivers additional warnings when Autopilot is engaged and they are not paying attention to the road or keeping their hands on the wheel.

Still the company maintains that the technology is safe to use when used correctly and reduces fatalities. Self-driving requires drivers to take the wheel and Tesla says people using self-driving technology should keep their eyes on the road.

That didn’t happen in Huang’s accident, Tesla said. On March 30, 2018, blog post, Tesla said Huang’s hands were not detected on the steering wheel of his car for six seconds before the crash. The company said it believed Huang was responsible for the crash because investigators discovered he was playing a video game on his phone while Autopilot was engaged. Huang didn’t brake or try to steer his car off the concrete block before it crashed.

Although Huang’s family admits he was distracted while driving, they claim Tesla is at fault because it falsely advertised Autopilot as a self-driving program. They claimed that Tesla knew that 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.

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

If the jury had found the Huang family, Tesla would have had to pay damages, and they would have increased quickly. Wrongful death suits involving large companies have sometimes resulted in awards north of $1 billion.

The promise of Autopilot has also helped boost Tesla’s stock in recent years and made the company the most valuable in the world — even if its stock is among the worst performers in 2024. Musk in an October 2023 call with analysts said self-driving autonomy “has the potential to make Tesla the most valuable company in the world to date.

Tesla stock (TSLA) rose 5% on Monday.