Tesla Blames Deceased Driver in Fatal Autopilot Accident

Tesla said in a statement Wednesday that the only way last month's fatal Model X accident could have occurred was if the driver, Walter Huang, was not paying attention.
KTVU via Associated Press

A Tesla spokesperson said the company was “very sorry for the family’s loss” but maintained that Walter Huang himself was at fault in his death.

In a statement provided to Business Insider, Tesla says:

According to the family, Mr. Huang was well aware that Autopilot was not perfect and, specifically, he told them it was not reliable in that exact location, yet he nonetheless engaged Autopilot at that location. The crash happened on a clear day with several hundred feet of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road, despite the car providing multiple warnings to do so.

The spokesperson defended the stance, saying that “the fundamental premise of both moral and legal liability is a broken promise, and there was none here.”

Tesla was, he said, “extremely clear that Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel” and enforced that warning “every single time Autopilot is engaged.”

Further, “if the system detects that hands are not on, it provides visual and auditory alerts.” The spokesperson claimed that “this happened several times on Mr. Huang’s drive that day.”

He added:

We empathize with Mr. Huang’s family, who are understandably facing loss and grief, but the false impression that Autopilot is unsafe will cause harm to others on the road. NHTSA found that even the early version of Tesla Autopilot resulted in 40% fewer crashes and it has improved substantially since then. The reason that other families are not on TV is because their loved ones are still alive (emphasis added).

Sevonne, Huang’s wife, “just [wants] this tragedy not to happen again to another family.” She and Huang’s family are suing Tesla for the crash, even as the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating it further. This will be the second such investigation. The first came in the wake of another autopilot crash — into a fire truck.


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