An Apple engineer who died last Friday, when the new Tesla Model X he was driving crashed into a barrier, may have brought up concerns about the vehicle’s Autopilot functionality previously.
Walter Huang, 38, died in the accident in Mountain View, California when he was on his way to work at Apple. The Tesla Model X reportedly crashed into a highway barrier and caught fire. Investigations into the crash are still ongoing, and it’s currently unclear whether the Tesla was on Autopilot mode when it occurred.
But on Wednesday, local media outlet ABC7 reported that Huang may have complained about the vehicle’s Autopilot functionality before the crash.
Huang’s family told ABC7 that the Apple engineer had complained 7 or 8 times that the Tesla Model X would swerve toward the same barrier when on Autopilot mode. When he brought the vehicle into a dealership, they couldn’t duplicate the error.
The National Transportation Safety Board — which is investigating the crash — confirmed to ABC7 that it the California Highway Patrol is “acting” on the information that Huang’s family gave, but provided no further comment.
Tesla responded to concerns about the Autopilot functionality in a statement to the media outlet.
“We’ve been doing a thorough search of our service records and we cannot find anything suggesting that the customer ever complained to Tesla about the performance of Autopilot. There was a concern raised once about navigation not working correctly, but Autopilot’s performance is unrelated to navigation,” the company wrote.
In a blog post about the incident on Tuesday, Tesla brought up another factor that may have increased the crash’s severity. A so-called “crash attenuator,” a type of highway safety barrier, was apparently missing where Huang’s Tesla crashed the day before the accident.
In response, Will Huang — Walter’s brother — told ABC7 that the barrier “ultimately should’ve saved my brother’s life. We’ve seen videos of similar crash with cushion and the driver walked out of it unharmed.”
Huang, who had a wife and two kids, worked for 13 years as a programmer at Electronic Arts. He had only landed the gig at Apple last November. Reportedly, he bought the Tesla Model X in celebration of getting the job.