Autopilot Tesla car has killed two people in California. Who’s guilty?
In 2019, a Tesla on Autopilot slammed into another car killing two people instantly. The Los Angeles County prosecutors filed two counts of vehicular manslaughter against the driver of the Tesla Model S. While the driver ran a red light, it directly crashed into the Civic carrying the two victims.
The Tesla driver, Kevin George Ariz Riad who is 27 has pleaded not guilty. He is a limousine service driver. While the case is pending, Riad is free on bail. While the Civic’s passenger is Maria Guadalupe Nieves-López and the driver is Gilberto Alcazar Lopez. Both lost their lives in the crash.
Although Riad’s defense attorney didn’t respond to comment requests, the Los Angeles County prosecutors also declined to discuss anything. Riad has a scheduled preliminary meeting on Feb. 23.
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Riad, the defendant is the first person to have felony charges in the US for a fatal crash. Which involves the use of a partially automated driving technology. While the prosecutors filed the charges in October, it was cleared just last week.
This is a breakthrough case of an Autopilot car accident. The confusion is growing in the world of automated driving where safety is a concern.
While the criminal charge isn’t the first one involving an Autopilot system, this is the first case involving a widely used driver technology. In 2020, authorities in Arizona filed a charge of negligent homicide against an Uber driver. Uber hired the driver to participate in Autopilot vehicle testing on public roads. The Uber vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian.
In 2018, there was also a Tesla car crash in Culver City, California. In this incident, Tesla hit a firetruck. The Autopilot’s system had “permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task.” No one was dead in this crash.
Tesla driver in California becomes the first person to be charged in a fatal crash involving autopilot pic.twitter.com/iWQSPUpk1zADVERTISEMENT
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Self-driving car director at Princeton University Alain Kornhauser stated. “It’s a wake-up call for drivers.” He added, “It certainly makes us, all of a sudden, not become so complacent in the use of these things. That we forget about the fact that we’re the ones that are responsible. Not only for our own safety but for the safety of others.”
Kornhauser said that automated capabilities are designed to assist drivers. System names like SuperCruise, Autopilot, and ProPilot can mislead consumers. As they’ll believe that these cars are capable of much more than their real capacities.
An owner of a Tesla Model S is facing two felony charges related to a deadly crash in which the car’s autopilot system was allegedly engaged. pic.twitter.com/eBIKIVAW2p
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Even with the increasing numbers of fatalities involving fully automated cars, they are still being tested on public roads. Technology companies like Tesla and organizations that set engineering standards have failed. They haven’t fully inform the public of the risks. Regulators and legislators are also expected to make it clear to the public what the technical differences are. They also fail to address who will be liable in case of accidents.
Kornhauser added that if Riad the Tesla driver will ever be found guilty. “It”s going to send shivers up and down everybody’s spine who has one of these vehicles.” People will realize, “Hey, I’m the one that’s responsible. Just like when I was driving a ’55 Chevy. I’m the one that’s responsible for making sure that it stays between the white lines.”
Moreover, driver-assist programs and Autopilots are roaming around on roads all around the world. Almost 765,000 Tesla vehicles are using the automated system in the US.
The National Transportation Safety Board and NHTSA are looking into the extensive misuse of the Autopilot system. They are blaming the drivers’ inattention and overconfidence.
Since 2016, NHTSA has investigated Autopilot crashes with 11 deaths. Many are reaching out to Tesla for comments. However, they have dissolved their media relations department.
However, since the Autopilot crashes became imminent Tesla has updated its software. They changed the system where it’ll make it harder for drivers to use to avoid negligence. Tesla also tried to improve Autopilot’s ability to detect emergency vehicles.