Tesla secured a significant triumph on Tuesday. The company won a court case in which two plaintiffs argued that the company’s Autopilot driver assistance feature resulted in a fatality. The trial was the first of its kind in the United States.
The lawsuit, filed in a California state court, was brought by two passengers involved in a 2019 crash. The plaintiffs accused the company of being aware of Autopilot’s defectiveness at the time of the vehicle’s sale. Tesla countered the claim, asserting that the crash occurred due to human error.
Following four days of deliberation, the 12-member jury decided that the vehicle lacked a manufacturing defect. The final vote was 9–3. According to The Guardian, no immediate comments were made by Tesla or the plaintiffs regarding the decision.
The civil lawsuit contended that Tesla’s Autopilot system caused Micah Lee’s Model 3 to abruptly veer off a highway east of Los Angeles. The Model 3 collided with a palm tree and burst into flames within a matter of seconds.
The crash tragically resulted in Lee’s death and inflicted severe injuries upon his two passengers. One of the injured passengers was an 8-year-old boy who lost internal organs.
The lawsuit, brought against Tesla by the passengers, accused the company of having knowledge about the defects in the Autopilot feature at the time of the vehicle’s sale.
Tesla refuted these claims, alleging that Lee had consumed alcohol before operating the vehicle. The company also said that the plaintiffs couldn’t prove whether the Autopilot feature was engaged during the crash.
Tesla has been involved in testing and rolling out its Autopilot and more advanced Full Self-Driving (FSD) system. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has emphasized the significance of these technologies to the future of his company. However, they have faced scrutiny from both regulatory bodies and the legal system.
Tesla won a related case in Los Angeles in April. In that case, Tesla self-driving technology was blamed after a Model S swerved into the curb, injuring its driver.
Tesla convinced jurors that it had given drivers sufficient warning that they needed to monitor their vehicles. The jurors decided that human error was to blame for the accident.
As Tesla emerges victorious in the Micah Lee case, it’s facing increased scrutiny from federal agencies.
On October 23, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued subpoenas to Tesla as part of an ongoing investigation into Autopilot and Full Self-Driving. It’s unclear whether the investigation will lead to any criminal charges.