Tesla is being sued by the family of Walter Huang aka Wei Lun Huang who died when his Tesla Model X hit a median on Highway 101 in Mountain View. The car’s Autopilot driving assist was engaged at the time of the accident.
According to ABC7 News Huang’s family has launched a lawsuit against both Tesla and the State of California. The family claim that the car’s auto assist system was ‘defective’.
The driver did not respond to cues
It further blames the state for not making repairs on the safety barrier within the mandated amount of time. When the crash occurred last Spring, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, responded to the news with a blog post that claimed Huang had “received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver's hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision."
In the same post, Musk boasted that Autopilot "unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.” He said Tesla would work with crash investigators to help fully understand the conditions that caused the crash.
Tesla was 'defective'
Huang’s family has told media that Huang had previously complained about the Autopilot feature and how it would cause the car to swerve towards the barrier on his daily commute. They also asserted that Huang had reported the malfunction to the Tesla dealership.
The crash was investigated by the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB), who released a preliminary report of their findings last year. That report is yet to be updated.
Crash barrier not repaired
Their preliminary findings noted that the crash was exacerbated because the crash attenuator was missing from the barrier at the time of the incident. It also observed that the car accelerated in the seconds prior to the crash, making contact with the barrier at 70 MPH.
The Tesla's battery was breached which caused an intense fire. Since the crash, Tesla has updated the Autopilot software. They have also slightly rebranded the software with more of an emphasis on drivers needing to be attentive, even when the system is turned on.
Tesla confident in self-driving future
A video that showed a driver not touching the steering wheel at all was removed from the company’s Autopilot website. Tesla recently hosted an exclusive investor event where they presented their roadmap for self-driving technology. Elon Musk said he is confident Tesla’s Full Self-Driving package, will be ready by the end of the year.
Tesla's self-driving system uses radar and cameras without an object-detecting LiDAR technology which is preferred by most other autonomous vehicle developers. Musk has said the LiDAR is "expensive and unnecessary."
Tesla hopes to create a network of autonomous cars that will operate as a car-sharing service allowing Tesla drivers to earn money from their vehicles when they don't’ need them.