Engineer Killed in California Tesla Crash Had Complained About Autopilot
Apple engineer Walter Huang who died when his Tesla Model X crashed into a concrete barrier had complained about the SUV’s Autopilot feature malfunctioning on that same stretch of Silicon Valley freeway. According to a KTLA news report, his complaints were detailed in documents released this week by federal investigators in two Tesla crashes involving Autopilot – one in California and the other in Florida.
Evidence of Problems with Model X Autopilot
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the March 2018 crash that killed Huang near Mountain View. The agency is also looking into a crash in Delray Beach that occurred a year later, which killed driver Jeremy Banner. The documents say Huang told his wife the Autopilot had previously caused his SUV to veer toward the same barrier on U.S. 101 near Mountain View when he later crashed. She told investigators her husband mentioned that his “car would veer toward the barrier” during his morning commute to work.
Huang had also described the Autopilot malfunction to his brother in addition to talking with a friend who owns a Model X. Huang, a software engineer, had discussed with the friend how a patch to the Autopilot software affected its performance and made the vehicle veer, the family’s attorney said. Huang’s family is suing Tesla for the auto defect and the California Department of Transportation for allegedly failing to maintain the highway.
The Investigation into Autopilot
Autopilot is Tesla’s controversial driver-assist system, which has come under scrutiny and criticism from auto safety advocates who say the name “Autopilot” is misleading because it leads drivers to believe they can operate the vehicle without having to hold the steering wheel. After an initial fatal crash in Florida in May 2016, Tesla came out with the warning that drivers should still remain vigilant when the vehicle is on Autopilot, and be ready to take control of the wheel at a moment’s notice.
Our auto defect attorneys agree that Tesla should either do away with the feature or at least make more of an effort to communicate to consumers that this is not an automated feature. The automaker is marketing Autopilot as a semi-automated feature, which is also misleading.
Both the NTSB and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are looking into several crashes nationwide involving the Autopilot feature. A full NTSB board hearing on the Mountain View crash has been set for Feb. 25. At the time, the board will determine a cause and make safety recommendations. The agency has already recommended that Caltrans move faster to repair highway safety barriers that are damaged by vehicles. An NTSB report says officials failed to fix the barrier that was already damaged in another crash 11 days before Huang crashed into it and was killed.