Elon Musk, a billionaire, is recognized for his innovative concepts, assertive leadership style, and thought-provoking tweets. One of them is a guy who lacks empathy. But according to the court documents, the parent was more pitiful and compassionate.
There is nothing worse than losing a child, as Elon Musk writes in a letter to the father of a young boy who died in a horrible Tesla accident in 2018.
The almost seven-week-long string of texts follows a horrible tragedy and provides a rare glimpse into Musk’s personal participation in customer interactions. In addition, he discusses his personal loss, about which he almost ever speaks in public.
It was on May 8, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that he was having a conversation with James Riley, whose son Barrett was driving a Tesla Model S when he lost control of the vehicle at 116 miles per hour and smashed into the concrete wall of a property.
The whole vehicle was enveloped in flames. Both Barrett Riley and his colleague perished in the crash.
The email conversation was just made public in a court document pertaining to a wrongful death claim brought about by another Tesla collision. In one instance, a lawyer is attempting to convince the court to require Musk to testify on Tesla’s Autopilot system for assisted driving.
What’s even more amazing is that Musk obliged Riley’s request to change a Tesla vehicle’s built-in function so that parents could more easily limit their children’s top speed.
In my arms, my firstborn son passed away. Musk remarked, “I felt his dying pulse” in reference to his son Nevada Alexander Musk, who went tragically at the age of 10 weeks.
With the release of a software update in June 2018, Tesla’s speed limiter function now enables drivers to choose a maximum speed between 50 and 90 mph by entering a four-digit PIN on the smartphone app or on the vehicle’s user interface.
It was noted in the owner’s handbook that the occasion was held in Barrett Riley’s honor.
Riley sent a letter to Elon Musk on May 31, 2018, in which she expressed the following sentiment: “I have never sought acclaim for anything in my life, but it would be amazing to think that Barrett and Edgar’s death resulted in the increased safety of others.”
Riley had received assurance from Musk two days before that Tesla was “doing everything we can to enhance safety.” My friends and family and I all drive Teslas, but even if they didn’t, I would still do my best.
Riley filed a lawsuit against Tesla for product liability in a federal court in Florida more than two years after the email conversation.
According to the lawsuit, the Tesla driver’s lithium-ion batteries “broke into an uncontrolled and destructive fire” following the incident. He said that Barrett Riley was killed intentionally, not by accident.
Prior to the event, Riley requested a speed limitation for the safety of his child, but the lawsuit alleges that the device was unlawfully removed when the vehicle was taken to Tesla for repair.
If not for Tesla’s carelessness, the restriction would have avoided the crash, and “Barrett Riley would be alive today,” according to the lawsuit.
Requests for comments were not answered by Tesla.
Tesla disputed the assertion that the construction of its batteries was defective in its answer to the lawsuit. Barrett Riley reportedly requested a higher speed restriction after complaining to the repair facility about the vehicle’s acceleration capabilities.
The case will be tried later this year. Riley v. Tesla Inc., 20-cv-60517, United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale).