Calif. family blames Tesla Autopilot for crash that killed teen son: lawsuit

California

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A Bay Area family is suing Tesla for a crash on I-880 that resulted in the death of their 15-year-old son.

The complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court says that Tesla’s Autopilot “contains defects and failed to react to traffic conditions,” according to The New York Times.

The boy’s father, Benjamin Maldonado, was driving them in a pickup truck in 2019. They were struck by a Tesla Model 3 after Maldonado switched lanes, according to video footage. The Times reports that the Tesla was driving about 60 mph on Autopilot and didn’t slow down “until a fraction of a second before the crash.”

According to the court documents that NYT reviewed, Maldonado saw the Tesla coming quickly and tried to swerve back into his original lane, but the impact happened too fast. Maldonado’s lawyer got video of the crash and shared it with the Times, viewable here.

Tesla has not responded to allegations about a flawed or malfunctioned Autopilot. The driver and passenger of the Tesla, Romeo Lagman Yalung and his wife, Vilma, are also being sued and have not addressed the complaint in court yet, the Times reports.

15-year-old Jovani Maldonado was one of their two children, residing in San Lorenzo. He had dreams of being a professional soccer player, his parents told the Times. Benjamin and Jovani were returning home from a soccer tournament when the deadly crash happened.

Tesla was involved in another similar lawsuit after a Foster City man was killed while driving his Tesla in 2018.

Walter Huang, 38, crashed into the edge of a concrete highway median while his 2017 Tesla Model X was on Autopilot. Investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board also said Huang was playing a video game on his smartphone at the time of the crash.

NTSB investigators also said that the Autopilot system became confused at a freeway exit and was a factor in the crash.

“The navigation system of Huang’s Tesla misread the lane lines on the roadway, failed to detect the concrete median, and failed to brake the car, but instead accelerated the car into the median,” a statement from his family’s lawyers read. 

Huang had reportedly complained about the Tesla’s malfunctioning Autopilot before the deadly crash in Mountain View, according to documents released by the NTSB.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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