A Tesla driver in California is facing dual vehicular manslaughter charges after a 2019 crash involving Tesla’s Autopilot system, making him the first driver to face felony charges in a fatal crash involving driver-assistance software.
According to a report in The Washington Post, the Tesla driver Kevin George Aziz Riad was charged by Los Angeles County prosecutors in October in a crash where he ran a red light and crashed into another car, killing two people.
A Landmark Case for Tesla Driver
Police said at the time that the Tesla Model S that Riad was driving was traveling at a high rate of speed, exited a freeway, and ran a red light, striking a Honda Civic on Dec. 29, 2019, in Gardena. The Civic’s occupants, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez were killed in the crash.
This is not the first major crash involving automated or semi-automated vehicles. In 2018, the driver of an Uber autonomous vehicle was charged with negligent homicide after the vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian. The charges against Tesla driver Riad reflect a likely first for a system that is directly available to consumers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that Tesla’s Autopilot is a feature that is available on about 765,000 vehicles.
The mother of one of the victims, Nieves-Lopez, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Riad and the limo company his father runs as well as a product liability lawsuit against Tesla alleging negligence, as well as manufacturing and design defects.
Tesla’s Autopilot Problems Continue
Despite its name, Autopilot is not a fully automated feature. It is intended to be used with a fully attentive Tesla driver behind the wheel. But its design is such that it allows drivers to be negligent and has very few safeguards in place to prevent abuse or negligence on the part of drivers.
Our auto defect lawyers have been critical of Tesla’s branding of Autopilot and its lack of clarity about what Autopilot is capable of doing and what it’s not. NHTSA is investigating Autopilot with regard to collisions involving parked emergency vehicles. One person was killed and at least 17 were involved in a dozen crashes that are part of that investigation.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident involving Tesla’s Autopilot, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses. An experienced auto defect lawyer can help you better understand your legal rights and options.