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Officials Say Tesla in Fatal California Crash Had Autopilot Engaged

A Tesla Model 3 involved in a deadly car accident on a Southern California freeway last week was operating on Autopilot at the time, officials said. According to an ABC news report, the fatal crash occurred in Fontana in San Bernardino County and is currently being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This is the 29th case involving a Tesla to which the safety regulator has responded.

Involvement of Autopilot

A 35-year-old man was killed when his Tesla Model 3 struck an overturned semi on a freeway early morning on May 5. Another man was seriously injured when the electric vehicle struck him as he was helping the semi’s driver out of the wreck. The California Highway Patrol announced that the car had been operating Tesla’s semi-automated driving system called Autopilot, which has come under scrutiny in a number of crashes. The Fontana crash marks at least the fourth U.S. death involving the Autopilot.

CHP officials said they usually don’t comment on ongoing investigations but felt the need to do so because of the high level of interest in Tesla vehicle crashes. They reminded drivers that driving is a complex task that requires a driver’s full attention.

This investigation comes just after the CHP arrested another man who authorities have said was in the back seat of a Tesla driving on Interstate 80 near Oakland without anyone behind the wheel. Officials have not determined in that case if the vehicle was on Autopilot or “Full Self Driving.” Tesla is allowing a limited number of owners to test its automated system. Tesla has not made any comments on the Southern California fatal crash.

Serious Concerns About Safety

The fact that NHTSA is now involved in 29 separate investigations around Autopilot is cause for serious concern. Clearly, the message that drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road—even if Autopilot is engaged—hasn’t gotten through. It has also become evident that Tesla doesn’t have sufficient safeguards to prevent drivers from misusing the Autopilot feature.

Our auto defect attorneys have been following this issue closely and have repeatedly raised concerns about the red flags these types of incidents raise. If you or a loved one has been injured in a Tesla Autopilot crash, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses. It is important that you contact an experienced auto defect lawyer to better understand your legal rights and options.


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California Personal Injury Blog