Tesla Settles Lawsuit With Family In Fatal Autopilot Failure

(NationalUSNews.com) — On Monday, April 8, Tesla settled in the case of Apple engineer Wei Lun Huang, who was killed in the 2018 crash when the Autopilot feature on his Tesla vehicle slammed into a freeway divider at 71 mph.

Jury selection for the lawsuit was to start the following day at the California Superior Court. In 2022, Tesla’s co-founder and CEO, Elon Musk, stated that the company would never settle in an “unjust case” against the company, even if it seemed likely that they would lose. While the terms of the settlement were not released publicly, it seems like an admission on Tesla’s part that the case was not an unjust one.

Huang, who also went by Walter, was driving a Tesla Model X, which is a luxury SUV, when he died. His family places the blame on the autopilot feature, but court documents indicate that Tesla had intended to suggest that Huang was playing video games on his phone at the time of the crash. Huang’s family has denied that allegation. Tesla has also filed court documents intended to prevent Huang’s family members from sharing the details of the settlement.

Tesla refers to the feature as autopilot and calls it a more advanced version of its Full Self-Driving features, but also says that with either system the driver needs to still be engaged and ready to intervene at any moment. This is not the first time Tesla has faced litigation over accidents with their self-driving vehicles, and in 2023 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated 1000 crashes involving Tesla vehicles, ultimately finding that the Autopilot system can give drivers a false sense of security, which can lead to dangerous misuse.

There is some speculation that Tesla decided to settle as a last-minute effort to avoid a trial that would increase scrutiny on their products just after Musk announced plans to launch a new Robotaxi autonomous rideshare program as early as August 8. In December, Tesla recalled over two million vehicles for a software update in response to criticism that the company was not doing enough to ensure that drivers remained attentive while using the autopilot features.

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