Tesla is very confident that its Autopilot suite of semi-autonomous driver aids is safe. So much so, in fact, that its latest statement in the wake of a fatal crash has earned its fair share of criticism.
After the family of Walter Huang went on a California ABC affiliate to discuss the Tesla Model X crash that took his life, the company sent out a statement. As with past statements, Tesla touted the benefits of Autopilot while casting the blame on Huang for allegedly missing warnings and not paying attention while operating the system.
Tesla dispatched a team of engineers to the crash site in Mountain View, California to assist in removing the vehicle’s battery pack.
Dean C. Smith via Twitter
“The crash happened on a clear day with several hundred feed of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this incident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road, despite the car providing multiple warnings to do so,” the statement reads in part.
The statement also reiterated Autopilot’s reliance on a human failsafe. “Tesla is extremely clear that Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel,” the statement continues. “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.” The statement is available in full on ABC 7 News’ website.
Bloomberg talked to several experts in various corners of the industry about Tesla’s current position, and the responses offered up criticism of Tesla’s system for not doing enough to prevent driver misuse, in addition to lambasting Tesla’s latest response for relying on the same doubling-down tactic that it’s used in responses to previous, similar events.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation is ongoing, so official blame has not yet been cast. Reuters reports that Huang’s family has hired a law firm to explore its options, and that law firm believes that Autopilot is at least partially to blame, because its system might have misread the lane markings on that particular stretch of highway.