Is Autopilot To Blame For This Fatal Tesla Crash?


Victim's family is suing the automaker.

On the morning of March 23, 2018, Walter Huang, an Apple employee and owner of a 2017 Tesla Model X, dropped his two young children off at school and headed to work on the same route, US Highway 101, he took every day. Only that day his Model X collided with a highway barrier while Autopilot was running. A significant fire erupted and Huang was killed. And now his family has sued both Tesla and the state of California for wrongful death.

According to court documents courtesy of Bloomberg, Huang's family is seeking damages due to perceived negligence by the automaker. Only eight seconds before the crash, Huang was traveling at about 65 mph, according to an investigation by the National Highway Transportation Safety Board.

KTVU via Associated Press

Only a second later, the Model X veered to the left but was still following the same vehicle as before. However, four seconds later it was no longer following that vehicle, and then it began to accelerate. It reached 71 mph three seconds before crashing into a concrete highway barrier. The Autopilot's cruise control system had been set to 75 mph. Information taken from the vehicle's data recorder shows no pre-crash braking or evasive steering prior to impact. That impact was powerful enough to breach the battery pack and the vehicle caught on fire. The pictures above show the aftermath of the crash and fire.


Not long after the crash, Tesla blamed Huang for what happened, claiming he had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the barrier but took no action. Tesla insisted its Autopilot system was safe and functioned properly. The NTSB's preliminary report did not assign blame, but highlighted several contributing factors, including both Huang and Autopilot. Huang's family is suing California for failing to repair or replace a crash cushion that had been damaged a week prior to Huang's accident.

Huang's family attorney said his team of investigators had access to the Model X post-crash but the vehicle's data is proprietary and it belongs to Tesla. He claims Tesla has not shared that data. There have been other instances where Tesla owners complained about Autopilot issues, but Huang's case is far more serious. So far, Tesla has declined to comment on the lawsuit.


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