EXCLUSIVE: Tesla issues strongest statement yet blaming driver for deadly crash

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Two-and-a-half weeks since an Apple engineer died when his Tesla crashed on Autopilot, whis family is speaking out to the I-Team. Tuesday night, Tesla released its strongest statement yet blaming the driver, Walter Huang, for what happened. (KGO-TV)

More than two weeks since an Apple engineer died when his Tesla crashed on autopilot, his family is speaking out. This week, Tesla released its strongest statement yet blaming the driver, Walter Huang, for what happened.

But his family and their new attorney are fighting back.
VIDEO: Fiery Tesla crash kills driver in Mountain View
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A 38-year-old man was killed when his Tesla crashed and caught on fire in Mountain View.


Despite his long hours at EA Games and then Apple starting last November, 38-year-old Walter Huang found time for his family.

"His daily routine is to wake up every morning before everyone else to make breakfast for everyone and make coffee for Sevonne," said Will Huang, Walter's brother.

ABC7 News investigative reporter Dan Noyes spoke with Will, Huang's wife Sevonne, and the attorney they've hired to sue Tesla.

Huang died March 23 in a fiery Tesla crash in Mountain View on his way to work. Sevonne couldn't reach him and she turned on the news to see it. She told the ABC7 News I-Team that Walter complained that his Tesla's Autopilot had steered toward that same barrier on several occasions, she recognized the location and the blue Model X.

Dan Noyes: "Did you know right away that it was Walter? Did you think that was him?"
Sevonne Huang: "Yeah, I think that's him. It's just like -- lost everything for me. I didn't just lose my husband, I lost my best friend."

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.

I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Victim who died in Tesla crash had complained about Autopilot

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."

"We know that he's not the type who would not have his hands on the steering wheel, he's always been (a) really careful driver," said Will.

The family's lawyer believes Tesla is blaming Huang to distract from the family's concern about the car's Autopilot.

"Its sensors misread the painted lane lines on the road and its braking system failed to detect a stationary object ahead," said lawyer Mike Fong.

You can already see the arguments forming for the lawsuit. The lawyer tells me he doesn't expect to file the complaint until the NTSB wraps up its investigation.

VIDEO: Widow of deadly Tesla crash victim speaks out
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Sevonne Huang, the widow of the Tesla driver who died when his vehicle on autopilot crashed into a freeway divider, speaks for the first time exclusively to ABC7 News.


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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automotiveteslacar accidentbatteryroad safetytraffic accidentHighway 101electric vehiclesfirefighterscar fireI-TeamNTSBinvestigationu.s. & worldCalifornia
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