Tesla Settles Lawsuit Over Fatal Autopilot Crash Hours Before Trial


In the heart of Silicon Valley, the ECC (electric car colossus), Tesla, has successfully put an end to years of litigation by reaching a settlement in a lawsuit brought against them by the grieving family of Walter Huang, a leading engineer who was tragically killed in a crash whilst placing his trust in the company’s semi-autonomous driving software.

Although the precise amount paid by Tesla to secure this settlement has not been revealed, the move, announced on Monday, unexpectedly falls a day before the court trial regarding the disastrous 2018 crash on a major San Francisco Bay Area highway was scheduled to begin. Tesla’s motive behind the settlement, as stated in their court filing, was aimed solely at putting an end to the ongoing litigation process.

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In the pre-market betting, however, Tesla Inc. shares slipped 1%, while the company has already witnessed a fall of 30% this year.

Back in 2019, the family of the late Walter Huang pursued a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit, seeking to implicate Tesla and by default, their CEO Elon Musk, for insinuating about the exaggerated promises about the powers of Tesla’s self-driving car technology, Autopilot. The family insisted that the misleading manner in which the technology was portrayed encouraged customers to abandon their critical vigilance while driving.

According to available evidence, there were indications that Huang was engrossed in a video game on his iPhone at the time when his car tragically collided with a concrete highway barrier on March 23, 2018.

The fateful day began as usual with Huang dropping his son at preschool, before embarking on his daily commute to his workplace at Apple, using his Autopilot-enabled Model X. However, under twenty minutes into the journey, the seemingly unhindered ride took a fatal turn. The vehicle veered off course, accelerated alarmingly, and rammed into a barrier at a critical intersection on a bustling highway in Mountain View, California. The vehicle was tracked at a horrifying speed of over 70 miles per hour (110 kilometers per hour) at the time of the crash.

Sadly, Huang, then aged 38, lost his life in the devastating accident, leaving behind a wife and two young children, aged 12 and 9.

This case is one among several similar disputes spread across the U.S., each one echoing the concerns about the efficacy of Tesla’s autonomous technology, and whether Musk’s assertions instill a false belief in the ability of the technology. Besides the Autopilot function, Tesla also offers an optional feature it dubs as ‘Full Self Driving’. In light of these events, the U.S. Justice Department launched an inquiry last year into the promotional activities of Tesla and Musk regarding their autonomous technology, as revealed in regulatory filings sparsely detailing the investigation’s scope.

Tesla, headquartered in Austin, Texas, had previously won a trial in Southern California last year. The trial primarily centered around the misapprehensions about Tesla’s Autopilot feature contributing to a 2019 crash involving a Tesla vehicle.