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He Complained About Tesla Autopilot, Was Killed in Autopilot Crash

Walter Huang said his Model X veered toward the same barrier that ultimately killed him
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 11, 2020 6:36 PM CST
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In this March 23, 2018, file photo provided by KTVU, emergency personnel work a the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on US Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.   (KTVU-TV via AP, File)

(Newser) – An Apple engineer who died when his Tesla Model X slammed into a concrete barrier had previously complained about the SUV malfunctioning on that same stretch of Silicon Valley freeway. His complaints were detailed in a trove of documents released Tuesday by federal investigators in two Tesla crashes involving Autopilot, the AP reports. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the March, 2018 crash that killed Walter Huang near Mountain View, California. It's also probing a crash in Delray Beach, Florida, that happened about a year later and killed driver Jeremy Banner. The documents say Huang told his wife that Autopilot had previously veered his SUV toward the same barrier on US 101 near Mountain View, California where he later crashed. Huang died at a hospital from his injuries.

“Walter said the car would veer toward the barrier in the mornings when he went to work,” the Huang family's attorney wrote in a response to NTSB questions. Huang had also described Autopilot's previous malfunctioning to his brother, the Huang family attorney wrote, in addition to talking with a friend who owns a Model X. Huang, a software engineer, discussed with the friend how a patch to the Autopilot software affected its performance and made the Model X veer, according to the attorney. Records from an iPhone recovered from the crash site showed that Huang may have been using it before the accident. Records obtained from AT&T showed that data had been used while the vehicle was in motion, but the source of the transmissions couldn’t be determined, the NTSB wrote. One transmission was less than a minute before the crash. The full NTSB board is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Mountain View crash on Feb. 25. At that time, it will determine a cause and make safety recommendations. (Click for more on that crash and the Florida one.)

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