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Tesla Autopilot Death Lawsuit Settled Before Trial Started

Tesla Settles Autopilot Death Lawsuit Hours Before Trial Started

The case about the death of a 38-year-old former Apple employee back in 2018 due to Tesla’s Autopilot was about to go before the jury for hearing.

In a rather shocking turn of events, Tesla settles the notorious lawsuit over the death of a former Apple engineer, Walter Huang, while using Autopilot. This took place in 2018 on a San Francisco Bay Area highway. He was travelling in his Tesla Model X with Autopilot ON. The details of the settlement are still under secrecy. Tesla said that it agreed to settle this case to end years of litigation. Note that Huang’s family had filed the lawsuit in 2019.

Tesla Settles Autopilot Death Lawsuit Before Trial Started
Tesla Settles Autopilot Death Lawsuit Before Trial Started

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Tesla Settles Autopilot Death Lawsuit

The aim of this lawsuit was to hold Tesla responsible for exaggerating the capabilities of Tesla’s self-driving technology. Many cases against Tesla Autopilot have been filed, highlighting the ambiguity in the way Tesla promotes and advertises its semi-autonomous driving capabilities. Note that Walter Huang was allegedly playing a game on his iPhone during the crash. However, the Autopilot had been working for 18 minutes prior to the accident.

This was revealed by the investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). During the time of the unfortunate event, the vehicle was at a speed of 71 mph (114 km/h). The report also mentions that just 7 seconds before the crash, the Autopilot “began a left steering movement” and sped up. That is what ultimately caused the vehicle to hit the concrete barrier on the side of the highway. Walter succumbed to his injuries on the spot.

We must also mention here that the NTSB report, after collecting the telemetry data from Apple, suggested that there was “possible user interaction”. Still, Huang’s family fought this finding because the report also cited “limitations” in Tesla’s Autopilot software which potentially contributed to the crash.

Remember, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched investigations into more than 950 crashes involving Tesla cars where Autopilot was claimed to be used. There are more than 3 dozen probes into crashes which resulted in 23 fatalities so far. Finally, Tesla decided to settle, at least, this case before it ever made it to the jury room.

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3

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Learn Electric Cars Says

Autonomous driving technology is constantly in the news for various reasons. While we understand the need and appeal, the implementation will be much harder than one would expect. We have to take into consideration the potential issues with not just the technology itself, but with the mentality of how people perceive, and ultimately use it. That is something no one can predict.

Hence, even if we reach a point where the technology reaches its zenith and behaves perfectly (aka Level 5 Autonomous Driving Technology), we can never be sure about how car owners abuse it. That is something that policymakers, as well as car companies, will need to think about prior to declaring any car capable of autonomous driving without human intervention. We shall be watchful of how things pan out in this regard in times to come.

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