With a settlement payment, the electric car manufacturer Tesla wants to avert a lawsuit over a death involving its “Autopilot” driving assistance system, almost at the last moment. The trial was scheduled to begin this week in San Jose, California. It was not clear from the court documents how much Tesla plans to pay to the family of the driver involved in the accident. The company requested that the amount be kept secret.

The case concerned the death of an Apple employee in March 2018. His Tesla Model The US accident investigation agency NTSB attributed the accident to system limitations and driver inattention.

The car did not give any warning of an obstacle

The “autopilot” system may have followed an incorrect lane marking and thereby steered the car directly towards the bollard at a speed of more than 100 kilometers per hour. The Tesla did not give a timely warning of an obstacle.

Tesla’s data records are intended to prove that the driver did not have his hands on the wheel at the time of the accident. After the accident, it was discovered that a game was open on his smartphone. Tesla denied responsibility in the process because the driver was distracted. However, some experts testified in the trial that they could not say with absolute certainty based on available data what exactly happened on the phone before the accident.

Musk: “Autopilot” safer than human at the wheel

The family said the deceased believed assurances from Tesla boss Elon Musk that “Autopilot” was safer to drive than a human behind the wheel. In documents about the system, Tesla always emphasizes that the driver should maintain an overview of the traffic situation and control of the vehicle at all times. That’s why there are warnings if you take your hands off the steering wheel for a long period of time.

The impact was further aggravated by the lack of a protective metal structure on the bollard. It had been damaged in another accident a few weeks earlier and had not yet been replaced.

In two previous cases regarding the “Autopilot” system in the USA, Tesla had prevailed with its arguments. However, the current case was particularly deeply investigated and also resulted in an investigation by the NTSB.