It comes as no surprise that the family of the late Walter Huang is pursuing legal action against Tesla for the recent deadly Model X Autopilot accident.
Huang's lawyer Mike Fong insists that if Autopilot was not activated, the crash may not have occurred. He plans to wait to file a lawsuit until after the National Traffic Safety Board's investigation is finished. His biggest concern seems to be that he believes Tesla's statements attempt to blame Huang for the crash. He said:
Its sensors misread the painted lane lines on the road, and its braking system failed to detect a stationary object ahead.
Unfortunately, it appears that Tesla has tried to blame the victim here. It took him out of the lane that he was driving in, then it failed to break, then it drove him into this fixed concrete barrier. We believe this would've never happened had this Autopilot never been turned on.
ABC7NEWS just recently aired an exclusive interview with Mr. Huang's wife, Sevonne. In congruence with other reports, she said that her husband has been bothered by the Autopilot system's function at other times prior to the accident. She explained that he noticed it trying to drive into the concrete barrier while the semi-autonomous system was activated.
Sevonne went so far as to say that her husband wanted her to take a ride with him so he could show her the issue. That never happened, however. Instead, she was watching the news report well-aware that it was him. Walter's brother said that she could check the app to see his location, which confirmed her belief, not because the vehicle was showing at the crash site, but because the app was displaying an error.
The NTSB's lengthy investigation is currently underway. According to Teslarati, recent talks between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt have been constructive.
Tesla's recent statement to the family via ABC7NEWS reads:
We are very sorry for the family’s loss.
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 fundamental premise of both moral and legal liability is a broken promise, and there was none here. Tesla is extremely clear that Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel. This reminder is made every single time Autopilot is engaged. If the system detects that hands are not on, it provides visual and auditory alerts. This happened several times on Mr. Huang’s drive that day.
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.