Tesla confirmed that its self-driving feature, Autopilot, was engaged in a fatal accident that occurred in California. Walter Huang, the driver of the Model X, struck a compressed traffic attenuator and was killed despite having Autopilot engaged. Prior to the data being revealed, the man's family made complaints to local outlet Mercury News that he had reportedly brought his Model X to Tesla several times over complaints about the Autopilot system.
Tesla's Autopilot is far from being crowned a perfect driver. Complaints about the company's latest hardware revision, called AP2, have been made by drivers for many months, often claiming that they felt the system was not as accurate as the company's first iteration, AP1. The updated technology has often shown past difficulty of being able to avoid traveling into other lanes; however, Tesla's over-the-air firmware updates have seemingly improved upon them since the introduction of AP2.
Huang's family reportedly told local news that Huang made several complaints to his local Tesla dealer regarding the vehicle veering off the road with Autopilot engaged. What seemingly makes matters worse is that the dealer was allegedly told that it wasn't just any stretch of road Huang experienced the problem with, but the same stretch of road where the accident occurred.
A Tesla spokesperson told local news that they could find no record suggesting that Huang ever reported the Autopilot performance complaints to Tesla.
The manufacturer's investigation over the crash revealed that Huang had his hands off of the steering wheel when the accident occurred, and despite receiving warnings for over six seconds prior to the crash, no action was said to be taken by the driver. Tesla goes on to defend Autopilot by stating that it is 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than a human driver.
Judging by the new information found by Tesla and the opposing details from Huang's family over past Autopilot complaints, it's quite likely that we will continue to read about this accident for some time. Autonomy is under a microscope after a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian several weeks ago. Lawmakers will likely use the two cases to help decide the future legislation governing autonomous driving.