Another grim milestone on the road to vehicle autonomy has been reached – the first autonomy-related lawsuit against an automaker. Ironically, it happened not in the litigation-obsessed US, but in China.
Gao Jubin’s 23-year-old son, Gao Yaning, died in January after crashing his Model S into the back of a road-sweeping vehicle on a highway in the northeastern province of Hebei.
The family believes that the Autopilot feature was responsible for the accident, and has filed a lawsuit against Tesla and the Beijing auto dealer that sold the car.
The suit alleges that “the Autopilot program’s slow response failed to accurately gauge the road conditions ahead and provide instructions,” according to lawsuit documents seen by Reuters.
Tesla said it is investigating the cause of the crash, but has “no way of knowing” if Autopilot was engaged at the time of the accident. “Because of the damage caused by the collision, the car was physically incapable of transmitting log data to our servers.”
The Gaos’ lawyer has been in contact with Tesla, but no agreement has been reached. Tesla says it has tried to work with the plaintiffs to determine the cause of the crash, but the family “has not provided us with any additional information that would allow us to do so.”
The lawyer disagrees: “The car is still there, and the data can still be extracted. A consumer can’t read the data, but Tesla could read the data,” he said.
By US standards, the amount of money at stake is laughably small: Gao wants Tesla to pay him 10,000 yuan (about $1,468) plus legal costs, and for the company and its authorized dealer to admit responsibility.