Many people in California own Tesla vehicles. The all-electric cars have been heralded for their innovation and eco-friendly concept, and one component that has helped spur the vehicles’ success is their Autopilot functionality. However, this feature has also been blamed for causing several serious and even fatal accidents, and the trial involving a wrongful death suit arising from a driver’s use of his Tesla Autopilot is set to begin on Nov. 15.
The accident and the lawsuit
The issue surrounding the lawsuit involves a fatal accident that occurred in 2019. A 28-year-old man driving a Tesla Model S had exited a freeway in Gardena, and his car’s Autopilot feature was allegedly engaged. The Tesla driver ran a red light off the exit and slammed into a Honda Civic. Both the driver and passenger in the Civic died at the scene.
The surviving family of the deceased sued the driver as well as the automaker itself. They claim the Autopilot feature makes drivers less attentive, which leads to accidents when the system fails. However, the company states that the feature is not meant to make the car autonomous, and drivers should actively supervise the decisions the system makes and respond accordingly to prevent collisions. The U.S. Justice Department apparently investigated bringing criminal charges against the automaker, but as of the report, no criminal charges had been filed.
Setting a precedent
While many drivers, especially in California’s notorious traffic, may relish the idea of a car driving itself, the technology apparently still has a way to go and may never be perfect. Drivers should always remain vigilant behind the wheel and not assume that driverless technology can replace human decision-making. This case represents the first of its kind in determining liability between the human driver and the driverless technology of the vehicle, so it will be interesting to see what legal precedents the case ultimately brings. Anyone who suffered an injury or loss in an accident caused by a driver using an Autopilot feature or similar technology should consult an experienced personal injury attorney for an explanation of their rights and options for pursuing financial relief.