Home Tech Tesla settles lawsuit over 2018 fatal Autopilot crash of Apple engineer

Tesla settles lawsuit over 2018 fatal Autopilot crash of Apple engineer

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Tesla settles lawsuit over 2018 fatal Autopilot crash of Apple engineer

Tesla has settled a lawsuit over a car crash that killed an Apple engineer in 2018 after his car went off a freeway near San Francisco, court documents showed Monday.

The settlement was reached as trial was about to begin over the high-profile accident involving Tesla’s driver assistance technology, ending a five-year legal battle over the case.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The case concerns a highway accident in which Walter Huang was killed. Tesla claimed that Huang had abused the system because he was playing a video game just before the accident. Tesla said Huang failed to stay alert and take over driving. “There is no question that had he been paying attention to the road, he would have had the opportunity to avoid this accident,” Tesla said in a court filing.

National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) officials investigating the 2020 crash found that before the 2018 crash, Huang made no attempts to stop his vehicle as it sped toward a guardrail on US Highway 101 near Mountain View, California.

Investigators also discovered that Huang was playing a video game on his smartphone at the time of the fatal crash.

Huang’s family alleged that Autopilot sent his 2017 Model X into a highway barrier. Attorneys for Huang’s family also raised questions about whether Tesla understood that drivers were unlikely to or could not use the system as directed, and what steps the automaker took to protect them.

Huang and Tesla’s attorneys were not immediately available for comment.

The settlement may have provided a blueprint for others suing over Autopilot. Tesla is facing a series of lawsuits over crashes linked to its alleged use, putting the automaker at risk of major monetary judgments.

“It strikes me that Tesla decided to go so far publicly and then settle,” said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina with expertise in autonomous vehicle law. “What this does is it tells other lawyers that we might be able to reach a settlement. We may not always fight it. That is the signal.”

The crash that killed Huang was one of hundreds of U.S. accidents in which Autopilot was a suspected factor in reports to auto safety regulators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has investigated at least 956 crashes where Autopilot was initially reported to be in use. The agency separately launched more than 40 investigations into crashes involving Tesla automated driving systems, which resulted in 23 deaths.

Amid the NHTSA investigation, Tesla recalled more than 2 million Autopilot-equipped vehicles in December to add more driver alerts. The solution was implemented via a remote software update.

Huang’s case follows two previous lawsuits in California over Autopilot that Tesla won on the grounds that the drivers involved had failed to heed instructions to maintain attention while using the system.

Despite marketing features calling Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, Tesla has yet to prove it can produce an autonomous car, despite years of predictions from co-founder and CEO Elon Musk that one is just around the corner, an expectation that is partly driving Tesla’s rising valuation supported. .

The automaker is facing lawsuits and investigations into accidents involving Autopilot and fully self-driving driver assistance systems, which the car company blames on inattentive drivers.

The Autopilot system can steer, accelerate and brake on public roads, but cannot completely replace a human driver, especially in the city. Materials from Tesla explaining the system warn that it does not make the car autonomous and requires a “fully attentive driver” who can “take over at any time.”

Reuters contributed to the reporting

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