For the first time ever, California prosecutors have filed felony charges against a driver who caused a crash that killed two people in 2019 while using Tesla’s “Autopilot” feature.
Gizmodo reports that for the first time California prosecutors have pressed felony charges against a person using Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance feature resulting in a car crash. The driver has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter after allegedly having Tesla’s Autopilot system engaged when his vehicle drove through a red light resulting in a crash killing two people in 2019.
The charges were filed in October but only became public this week. The man driving the Tesla was a 27-year-old limousine driver and has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Reports of the crash noted that it involved a Tesla speeding through a red light at high speed while exiting a freeway in Gardena, California.
The vehicle collided with a Honda Civic at an intersection, killing two passengers and hospitalizing a man and a woman in the Tesla. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it had assigned a special crash investigation team to probe the crash shortly after reports of the incident came to light.
NHTSA spokesperson told Gizmodo: “Whether a L2 [Level 2] automated driving system is engaged or not, every available vehicle requires the human driver to be in control at all times, and all State laws hold the human driver responsible for the operation of their vehicles. Certain advanced driving assistance features can promote safety by helping drivers avoid crashes and mitigate the severity of crashes that occur, but as with all technologies and equipment on motor vehicles, drivers must use them correctly and responsibly.”
This will be the first felony charge involving a common driver assistance program like Tesla’s Autopilot. While an Uber driver was charged with negligent homicide in 2020 when he hit an individual in Uber’s autonomous driving test vehicle, the system used by Uber was in a limited test phase and not available to the general public as Autopilot is.
This is now, however, the first time that Tesla’s Autopilot system has been implicated in a crash or death. The NHTSA estimates that the feature has caused at least 10 deaths since its deployment in 2015.
Read more at Gizmodo here.