Tesla opens wallet and settles Autopilot death lawsuit as it was getting interesting


Tesla’s team of “hardcore lawyers” have decided to settle a lawsuit involving an Autopilot death instead of going to a trial that looked like it was about to get interesting.

Last month, we reported on the case as it was preparing to go to trial. It involved the death of Walter Huang, an Apple engineer who crashed his Tesla Model X while driving on Autopilot.

The case was controversial because the car was clearly on Autopilot and made a mistake by driving into the median, but the driver was also at fault because he was not paying attention as data shows he was using his phone even though Tesla asks drivers to pay attention at all times when using Autopilot.

Tesla was brought to court over similar cases, but it won them all by claiming drivers misused Autopilot by not paying attention.

We noted that this case was more interesting because the lawyers for the Huang family smartly learned from those previous cases and took a different approach. They instead focused on two things. They alleged that Tesla knew that Autopilot had a problem with going into the median and, therefore, was defective, and they also alleged that Tesla was responsible for the misuse of the Autopilot system by building overconfidence in it, especially through statements made by the CEO Elon Musk.

The lawyers made interesting findings through discovery and Tesla engineer testimonies that highlighted that Tesla didn’t look much into driver monitoring to ensure driver attention, at least at the time of the crash. It also showed that Tesla was very aware of the potential for driver abuse.

As reported, it was about to become a very interesting trial.

However, we learned today through court documents that Tesla and Huang’s family have settled the case. The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.

Electrek’s Take

I have to assume that the settlement includes a nice chunk of cash for the family and no admission of wrongdoing on Tesla’s part.

However, we sort of take it as an admission of wrongdoing from Tesla because Elon is on record saying that Tesla would “never settle an unjust case against” them:

We will never surrender/settle an unjust case against us, even if we will probably lose.

But in truth, I think Tesla didn’t want all the bad publicity and all the information that would have come out of the trial.

Again, I think it’s up to the drivers to stay attentive at all times when using Tesla’s Autopilot or FSD, but I also think that Tesla has some responsibility in building overconfidence in the systems.

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