Tesla is coming under fire again after a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit has been filed by the family of a man who lost his life after it was reported that his car’s autopilot technology failed him.
Wei Lun “Walter” Huang was driving his 2017 Tesla Model X P100D on March 23, 2018, on Highway 101 in Mountain View, California, when his car crashed head-on into a barrier while traveling at 71 mph. Huang, an engineer for Apple, tragically lost his life from the accident.
It was reported that he was engaging the car’s autopilot system and cruise control function when the accident occurred. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Huang had used the car’s Autosteer and Traffic Awareness Cruise Control feature four times during the 32 minutes he was driving. The last period of time he used the technology was for one stretch during the last 19 minutes of his travels, just before impact.
Huang’s family has filed the lawsuit claiming that Tesla’s Autopilot technology was defective and was the primary cause of their loved one’s death. They are suing for wrongful death and negligence against Tesla and the State of California.
Tesla’s Autopilot software consists of a combination of different functions including Autosteer and Traffic Awareness Cruise Control, which detects vehicles in front of the Tesla vehicle while traveling, using the approaching car as guidance for the vehicle’s Autosteer system. The car that Huang was operating did not detect the vehicle in front of him as he approached a fork in the road. Huang’s Tesla veered to the left of the lane split, gaining speed to his set rate of 75 mph before the car collided with the barrier.
So, what went wrong with the technology? Huang’s family insists that the Tesla’s Autopilot system should have maintained in its lane of travel and alerted the driver of the fact that a collision was impending and should have automatically applied the car’s emergency brakes. None of these actions occurred through the technology when the accident occurred. His family is also saying that the State of California failed to maintain and repair the road’s barrier before the accident, claiming this also directly contributed to his death.
Tesla recently introduced new safety features in a software update that includes lane-keeping assist that operates without the Autopilot engaged. Newer models have this improved software, but it is not clear what version of the software Huang’s Tesla had at the time of the accident or whether this improved software would have prevented the accident.
All car manufacturers have a duty to ensure that any product they put on the road is safe and ready for consumers. They also have a duty to ensure that any new technology on their cars are properly tested and approved before the vehicles are allowed on the road. If they are found to have not met this duty of care, they can be liable for injuries or fatalities resulting from their negligence.
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