Tesla has released its strongest statement yet blaming the driver of a Tesla Model X that crashed on Autopilot almost three weeks ago. The driver, Walter Huang, died March 23rd in Mountain View when his Model X on Autopilot crashed headfirst into the safety barrier section of a divider that separates the carpool lane from the off-ramp to the left. Huang was an Apple engineer and former EA Games employee. ABC7News reports: Tesla confirmed its data shows Walter Huang was using Autopilot at the time of the crash, but that his hands were off the wheel for six seconds right before impact. Tesla sent Dan Noyes a statement Tuesday night that reads in part, “Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel… 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.” The family’s lawyer believes Tesla is blaming Huang to distract from the family’s concern about the car’s Autopilot.
Here is the full statement from Tesla: “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.”
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