Tesla Settles a Major California Lawsuit Involving a Purchaser Who Died While Behind the Wheel of a Vehicle on Autopilot

Tesla Settles a Major California Lawsuit Involving a Purchaser Who Died While Behind the Wheel of a Vehicle on Autopilot

On April 8, 2024, a jury trial was set to start in Northern California. The wrongful death case involved the family of a deceased Apple engineer and the automaker, Tesla, whose Model X autopilot allegedly steered the engineer’s SUV into a concrete barrier. The investigation into the crash revealed possible failures beyond just the SUV’s autopilot mechanism. CalTrans had allegedly failed to properly maintain and repair the crash attenuator in which the SUV slammed. The tragic case reveals many things, not the least of which is that many car accidents are the result of multiple acts of negligence by numerous parties. This illustrates why, if you are hurt in a crash, you need to talk to an experienced Santa Barbara auto accident lawyer, who can help ensure that you have the benefit of a thorough investigation and a legal action that holds all the negligent parties accountable.

Back in 2018, the engineer noticed that, when he passed the Highway 85 exit while traveling along southbound 101 near Mountain View, his SUV’s autopilot mechanism often would steer the vehicle toward a concrete barrier. The engineer believed that a software “patch” adversely affected the autopilot feature’s performance, according to a CBS News report.

suv auto accident

On March 23, 2018, the SUV slammed into a concrete barrier on the 101 freeway going 71 mph, killing the engineer. The crash site was near the same exit where the Tesla’s autopilot had allegedly experienced problems before.

The tragic death of this engineer reveals a truth common to many auto accidents: multiple people and/or entities whose negligence contributed to the fatal accident n question. In the engineer’s case, the family said Tesla’s autopilot software had malfunctioned, causing his Model X SUV to steer into a concrete barrier while going more than 70 mph. The family’s theory was that “Tesla’s Autopilot software became confused at gore areas and had not been trained to detect fixed objects such as crash attenuators and concrete barriers on highways.”

Failures Allegedly Extended Beyond the SUV’s Autopilot

Additionally, the barrier where the engineer crashed allegedly should have been equipped with a “crash attenuator guard,” which is a device designed “to dissipate crash energy, reduce… impact forces, lengthen the crash pulse, and protect vehicle occupants from serious injury as a result of striking the concrete” barrier. However, the guard “was either altered, modified or damaged in a prior collision more than one week before” the engineer’s death, and CalTrans had failed to repair or replace the guard, according to the family’s lawsuit.

On April 8, the trial’s scheduled start date, news reports announced that Tesla and the family had reached a settlement. The automaker filed a motion asking to keep the details of the settlement, including the amount paid to the engineer’s family, hidden under court seal.

Cases like this one are more common than you might think – hundreds happen each year, with roughly 2/3 involving Teslas. Accidents caused by autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles have the potential to implicate multiple culpable parties, including the auto manufacturer, the autopilot software developer, and potentially the person behind the wheel of the autonomous vehicle. The knowledgeable Santa Barbara car accident attorneys at the law firm of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP have the experience necessary to ensure your case gets the pretrial investigation and the litigation advocacy it deserves to ensure you get justice for your injuries. Contact us at 805-617 1365 or through our website to get a free case consultation today.


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