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Tesla settles lawsuit over fatal Autopilot crash

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Tesla on Monday settled a lawsuit accusing the automaker’s driver assistance software of being responsible for death of a Californian in 2018thus avoiding a trial that would have drawn attention to the company’s technology months before it plans to unveil a self-driving taxi.

The trial in the death of Wei Lun Huang, an Apple software engineer known as Walter, was scheduled to begin Monday with jury selection. The case was one of the largest involving Tesla’s Autopilot software, attracting public attention and triggering an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The terms of the settlement with Mr. Huang’s children and other family members were not disclosed, and Tesla filed court papers seeking to prevent them from being made public.

Testimony at the trial would have subjected Tesla’s self-driving software to increased scrutiny, further fueling debate over whether the technology makes cars safer or exposes drivers and others to serious injury or even death. the death.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said the company’s self-driving software would generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. Investors used his claims to justify the company’s high stock market valuation. Tesla is worth more than any other automaker, even though its shares have plunged in recent months.

Mr Musk said on X last week that Tesla would launch a self-driving taxi, Robotaxi, in August. If Tesla has indeed developed a vehicle capable of carrying passengers without a driver – which many analysts doubt – this development will help address criticism that the company has been slow to follow up on its Model 3 sedan and to its Model Y sport utility vehicle with new products.

Mr. Huang died after his Tesla Model X, a luxury SUV, veered off a highway in Mountain View, California, and crashed into a concrete median barrier. In the lawsuit, Mr. Huang’s family blamed defects in Autopilot, which they said lacked the technology to avoid a crash. The lawsuit also sought damages from California, arguing that the barrier was damaged and failed to absorb the impact of the car as it was supposed to.

Lawyers for Mr. Huang and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment Monday evening. In its legal filings, Tesla said it reached an agreement “to end years of litigation.” The company had indicated in court documents that it planned to testify that Mr. Huang was playing a video game on his phone at the time of the accident. The family’s lawyers have denied that is the case.

While Tesla calls this software Autopilot and a more advanced version Full Self-Driving, neither system makes a car fully autonomous. The systems can accelerate, brake, keep cars in their lane and perform other functions to varying degrees, but drivers must stay engaged and be ready to intervene at a moment’s notice.

In December, Tesla recalled more than two million vehicles for a software update under pressure from U.S. regulators who said the automaker had not done enough to ensure drivers remained attentive when using the systems.

THE National Transportation Safety Board investigation Responsibility for the 2018 crash was placed on Tesla and Mr. Huang. The agency said Autopilot failed to keep the vehicle in its lane and its collision avoidance software failed to detect a road barrier. The board also said Mr. Huang was likely distracted.

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