Tesla knew Autopilot weakness killed a driver – and didn't fix it, engineers claim

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Tesla's Autopilot engineers person claimed nan automaker's activity not only knew nan package was incapable to observe and respond to transverse traffic, it did thing to hole it.

These allegations came to ray this week from a civilian suit brought against Tesla regarding a crash that killed 50-year-old begetter Jeremy Banner successful 2019. He died erstwhile his Tesla Model 3 smashed into a tractor-trailer successful transverse traffic; Autopilot had been activated by Banner 10 seconds anterior to nan collision. Neither nan driving-assistance package nor Banner, it would seem, saw and reacted to nan different conveyance successful time.

If his destiny sounds familiar, that's because it bears singular similarity to a 2016 accident that killed Joshua Brown, whose Tesla Model S pinch Autopilot activated grounded to announcement an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer walking crossing a highway. As happened years later successful Banner's case, Brown's Tesla passed nether nan trailer, ripping nan apical disconnected of nan conveyance and sidesplitting nan 40-year-old.

Banner's family, who sued Tesla soon aft his death, alleged successful a court filing [PDF] past week nan automaker knew astir Autopilot's inability to grip transverse postulation aft Brown's death, and grounded to do thing to hole it, starring to Banner's fatal crash. It was based on Tesla should person learned from that 2016 tragedy, and either improved Autopilot to safely grip transverse postulation aliases made it disengage successful those situations, which mightiness person saved Banner's life.

Specifically, Tesla was alert Autopilot "was not afloat tested for information and was not designed to beryllium utilized connected roadways pinch cross-traffic aliases intersecting vehicles ... Nevertheless, Tesla programmed Autopilot to let it to beryllium utilized connected roadways that Tesla knew were not suitable for its usage and knew would consequence successful fatal accidents," nan Banner family alleged.

The engineers speak - nether oath

Testimonies of 2 Autopilot engineers - Chris Payne and Nicklas Gustafsson - are captious to nan Banner family's case. Both were deposed successful 2021, and their statements were included successful a mobility by nan family to amend their earlier title to adhd a declare for punitive damages.

According to Gustafsson's statements successful nan supra filing, Autopilot was released without nan expertise to observe transverse traffic, thing he had trouble justifying erstwhile asked why Tesla had decided to omit cross-traffic detection. 

Payne besides said, according to nan filing, Autopilot was only designed to beryllium utilized connected highways pinch halfway dividers because "it was technically a 'very difficult thing' for nan hardware and package to relationship for transverse traffic." 

We're told that Payne explained Autopilot is designed to observe nan beingness of a cardinal divider, and is smart capable to deactivate itself if nary halfway divider is detected. Nonetheless, "you tin prosecute and run Autopilot if location is not a halfway divider and it will proceed to operate," Payne said successful his deposition.

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Gustafsson said overmuch nan aforesaid arsenic Payne during his deposition, namely that Autopilot wasn't designed to respond to transverse traffic. He besides said he investigated Brown's 2016 decease arsenic portion of his job, and alleged that contempt Tesla frankincense knowing astir nan rumor "no changes were made to Autopilot's systems to relationship for transverse traffic."  

Tesla didn't respond to questions from The Register. 

More tribunal cases, much problems

At nan bosom of nan Banner lawsuit is nan allegation that Tesla misrepresented nan capabilities of Autopilot, which it "knew to beryllium defective based connected a anterior fatal accident," and still made an "intentional determination to proceed profiting billions from nan income of their defective vehicles." 

That statement could extremity up being a headache for Tesla, which is being investigated by nan US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding various accidents nan regulator has a suspicion whitethorn person been caused by drivers being misled by Tesla's trading hype. That is to say, drivers whitethorn person been fixed nan belief Autopilot – which is simply a super-cruise-control characteristic alternatively than a genuinely afloat autonomous driving solution – was much tin than it really was, resulting successful motorists putting themselves successful vulnerable situations.

Additionally, nan US Department of Justice is probing Autopilot's hype versus its information record, too.

The NHTSA has already made Tesla rumor 1 Autopilot recall and package patch, and allegations Tesla was alert of Autopilot's shortcomings but did thing - from nan biz's ain techies, nary little - will apt beryllium of liking to investigators. In a abstracted lawsuit earlier this year, it was claimed Tesla staged a self-driving demo.

Whether lawyers for Banner's family will beryllium much successful successful their conflict than different Tesla proprietor who sued nan company complete a non-fatal Autopilot mishap will beryllium wished successful October, erstwhile nan lawsuit is scheduled to statesman its assemblage trial. ®