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Tesla’s going back to court over Autopilot’s role in a deadly 2018 crash

Tesla will soon return to court over a crash that led to the death of Wei “Walter” Huang nearly six years ago. The trial will take place in California the week of April 8th and will determine whether Tesla and its driver-assist software are at fault for the fatal accident, according to a report from Reuters.

In March 2018, Huang died after his Autopilot-enabled Model X crashed into a safety barrier along US Highway 101 in Mountain View, California. An investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board later found that both Autopilot and distracted driving contributed to the crash, as phone data indicated Huang was playing a mobile game.

However, Huang’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla in 2019, alleging the vehicle didn’t have proper safety features at the time, including automatic braking.

As noted by Reuters, Huang’s lawyers asked a witness from Tesla “whether the company knew drivers would not watch the road when using its driver-assistance system.” The deposition reportedly cited a 2016 email that former Tesla president Jon McNeill wrote to former Autopilot head Sterling Anderson, which said, “I got so comfortable under Autopilot, that I ended up blowing by exits because I was immersed in emails or calls.”

Tesla has faced legal action over its driver-assist features before, but it has never been found liable. Last year, the automaker won two lawsuits that accused Autopilot of contributing to a pair of crashes.

Federal regulators have increased scrutiny of Tesla in recent months, as the Department of Justice expanded its criminal probe into Autopilot features in October. Tesla also issued a recall for 2 million Tesla vehicles and pushed an update that’s supposed to make it more difficult for drivers to misuse Autopilot — but experts found the fixes have mostly fallen short.

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Update March 12th, 12:32PM ET: Added that the trial will now begin the week of April 8th.

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