Tesla blames driver of Model X in fatal Autopilot crash

In a new statement released by Tesla, the carmaker has blamed the driver, Walter Huang, for last month’s fatal crash involving a Tesla Model X in Autopilot mode. During the incident on March 23, 2018, the 38-year-old was killed when his Model X crashed into a freeway divider on Highway 101 near Mountain View, California and proceeded to catch fire.

“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,” said Tesla.

“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,” it continued.

Tesla blames driver of Model X in fatal Autopilot crash

Previously, Tesla publicised information obtained from the vehicle’s computer logs, where it was revealed the driver’s hands were not detected on the steering wheel for six seconds prior to the collision.

It added that the system had actively provided several visual and one audible hands-on warnings earlier in the drive, but these were not heeded. Additionally, it said the driver had about five seconds and 150 metres of unobstructed view of the concrete divider, but zero action was taken to prevent the crash.

“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,” the carmaker explained.

Some outlets have blamed the Autopilot system for being incapable of operating properly in certain settings. Another Tesla owner has since come out to detail his non-fatal crash in September 2017, which is pretty similar to Huang’s incident.

Unlike the crash that killed Huang, the safety barrier was in working order, and the driver walked away uninjured. Jim McPherson of SafeSelfDrive told ABC7 News reporter Dan Noyes that “the low sun angle could also pose a problem for the cameras that Tesla uses to drive.”

For now, the U.S. National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) are still performing their investigations, and Bloomberg reports that Huang’s family is exploring legal options. “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,” Tesla said.

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