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The family of a Florida man is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla claiming that the vehicle’s defective Autopilot feature caused the crash that killed Jeremy Banner. According to a news report, the collision occurred March 1. Banner’s 2018 Tesla Model 3 was traveling southbound on State Highway 441 in Delray Beach when it struck an eastbound tractor-trailer. The crash ripped the roof off the Tesla Model 3, killing Banner.
Autopilot’s Connection to Fatal Crashes
The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) initial report stated that Banner engaged Autopilot about 10 seconds before the crash and that the system failed to detect the driver’s hands on the wheel from less than 8 seconds before the collision. The report also says that the vehicle was traveling about 68 mph before the crash, which is 18 mph over the posted speed limit. The NTSB notes that both data and videos show that neither the car nor the driver initiated any type of evasive maneuver prior to the collision. The investigation, in that case, is still ongoing.
Banner’s crash has parallels with a similar collision, which also proved fatal for the driver. In May 2016, Joshua Brown’s Model S collided with the side of a big-rig, killing him. The resulting NTSB investigative report did not find Tesla at fault, but it also refuted claims that Brown had been watching a movie just before the crash. Banner’s family is the second to file a lawsuit against Tesla.
Earlier this year, the family of Walter Huang, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the automaker after Huang’s Model X crashed into a highway barrier in Mountain View, Calif., while Autopilot was engaged. After that crash, Tesla issued a statement blaming Huang while talking about the benefits of the Autopilot in spite of the fact that NTSB’s preliminary report pointed to several contributing factors.
Calling for Accountability
Our auto defect attorneys have long maintained that Tesla has misleadingly marketed its semi-autonomous Autopilot feature. The keyword here is “semi-autonomous.” But the name “Autopilot” makes it sound as if the driver can rely on the system entirely to take over the wheel. Tesla backtracked after Brown’s fatal crash telling drivers that need to keep their hands on the wheel even when Autopilot is engaged and be ready to take over at a moment’s notice. If that’s the case, why call it Autopilot?
We hope these lawsuits bring out more facts about the Autopilot system as tech companies and automakers jostle for a key position in the driverless vehicle market. This technology still has a long way to go. These vehicles should be on the road until they are ready for primetime.