A new update in the investigation of a fatal car crash involving a Tesla Model X in Mountain View, California, revealed that the vehicle was running on autopilot when the gruesome accident happened that took the life of 38-year-old Taiwanese engineer Walter Huang.
The driver was reportedly driving his Tesla Model X SUV on autopilot on Highway 101 in Mountain View on March 23. While on his way to work, the car suddenly slammed into a concrete median barrier that caused it to burst into flames.
— Dean C. Smith (@DeanCSmith) March 23, 2018
The front half of the vehicle was utterly destroyed by the collision. Some witnesses even reported seeing a fireball during the crash that claimed the life of Huang, an Engineer at Apple and former Software Engineer at Electronic Arts’ (EA) Visceral Games.
Before the accident, Huang had reportedly complained to his family that his car would often veer toward that very same barrier he crashed on multiple occasions in the past, the family told ABC7 I-Team’s Dan Noyes.
It was also said that he tried to raise the complaint to a Tesla dealership before, but the company was not able to replicate that issue.
Family of Apple engineer who died Friday in Tesla crash tells me he had complained to dealer that auto-pilot veered toward that same barrier on multiple occasions. #ABC7now See more in my investigation here: https://t.co/ZU6yOP8ZuE pic.twitter.com/cMUa0v4c3o
— Dan Noyes (@dannoyes) March 29, 2018
In the statement provided by Tesla, investigation confirmed that Huang was using autopilot at the time of the accident. The company wrote:
“In the moments before the collision, which occurred at 9:27 a.m. on Friday, March 23, Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum. The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision. The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.”
The statement also went on to cite a government data that shows how autopilot mode had reduced crash accident rates by 40% and fewer fatal accidents per mile than the other car brands.
“In the US, there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles from all manufacturers. For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware,” the company continued to note. “If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.”
While this is the case, the company went on to note that their technology will never prevent road accidents from ever happening. Instead, it will make them less likely to occur.
“In the past, when we have brought up statistical safety points, we have been criticized for doing so, implying that we lack empathy for the tragedy that just occurred. Nothing could be further from the truth. We care deeply for and feel indebted to those who chose to put their trust in us,” Tesla wrote in its closing statement. “However, we must also care about people now and in the future whose lives may be saved if they know that Autopilot improves safety. None of this changes how devastating an event like this is or how much we feel for our customer’s family and friends. We are incredibly sorry for their loss.”
The tech company is very much cooperative in investigating the case, but the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was displeased with Tesla’s release of information regarding the crash.
“At this time the NTSB needs the assistance of Tesla to decode the data the vehicle recorded. In each of our investigations involving a Tesla vehicle, Tesla has been extremely cooperative on assisting with the vehicle data. However, the NTSB is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla,” NTSB spokesman, Chris O’Neil, said on Sunday.
Huang’s family has since started a GoFundMe campaign for funeral expenses.