Walter Huang, an Apple engineer, died when his Tesla Model X SUV crashed into a concrete barrier on U.S. freeway 101 near Mountain View, CA. Huang had complained before his death that the Autopilot function of his Tesla would malfunction in the same area that the fatal crash occurred.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash that happened in March 2018 killing Huang and released documents that detail the complaints.
Huang had told his wife that the Tesla’s system veered the SUV toward the same concrete barrier previously in the mornings on his way to work, according to his family’s attorney who filled out the NTSB questionnaire. Huang also told his brother about the Tesla’s autopilot system malfunctioning as well as a friend who also owns a Model X that a patch to the autopilot software was affecting its performance causing the Model X to veer.
According to the documents, Huang had taken his Tesla into a service center in order to have a navigation error fixed, however, it was not repaired whenTesla could not duplicate the problem.
The Huang family is suing Tesla for the suspected malfunction of the Autopilot function as well as the California Department of Transportation (Caltran) for supposedly failing to maintain the highway.
According to a report by the NTSB, the concrete barrier that was involved in Huang’s crash was also the same one in another crash incident less than two weeks before when a 2010 Toyota Prius traveling in excess of 75 mph crashed against the attenuator which is a cushion that protects cars from hitting the end of concrete lane dividers. The 31 year old driver survived the crash with minor injurires. According to records though, Caltran failed to fix the barrier prior to Huang’s crash.
This particular barrier was involved in at least five other crashes in a three year period before March of 2018 and then again in May of 2018.
Two other reports from the NTSB reveal that the Autopilot function of Tesla vehicles were in use at the time of a March 1, 2019 fatal crash and also in 2016 both in Florida.
According to records of the 2019 Tesla Model 3 sedan crash, the Autopilot function was turned on just seconds prior to the fatal crash which ended up when the car drove underneath a tractor-trailer that was crossing in front of the car, sheering off the car’s roof and killing the driver.