California jury says Tesla’s Autopilot not to blame in fatal 2019 crash


The civil suit accused Tesla of “reckless and negligent behaviour” after the high-speed incident near Los Angeles, in which a Tesla Model 3 slammed into a palm tree and burst into flames. The driver later died of his injuries, while two passengers were also harmed. — AFP

SAN FRANCISCO: A California jury on Oct 31 rejected a claim that a Tesla car involved in a fatal 2019 crash had a manufacturer’s defect in its “Autopilot” self-driving feature, according to a court spokesperson.

The civil suit accused Tesla of “reckless and negligent behaviour” after the high-speed incident near Los Angeles, in which a Tesla Model 3 slammed into a palm tree and burst into flames. The driver later died of his injuries, while two passengers were also harmed.

The lawsuit faulted the car’s Autopilot and safety features.

Tesla should have known the technology was not ready for market, yet the company “and its CEO Elon Musk advertised, presented, and maintained it as if it was”, the suit contended.

“Though we express disappointment in the verdict, it’s undeniable that a national lens is now focused on this pressing matter,” the plaintiff's lawyer, Jonathan Michaels of MLG Attorneys at Law, said when contacted by AFP about the verdict.

“Tesla, despite its stature, was pushed to its limits during the trial.”

The fact that jurors deliberated for four days, and were split nine to three, "casts a shadow of uncertainty" on the tech, according to Michaels.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company has been hit with several lawsuits stemming from car accidents, and its driver-assistance technology has provoked regulatory probes in the United States.

Musk has said that Tesla will realise fully autonomous cars “later this year”, though the billionaire has already missed several deadlines for the long-anticipated milestone. – AFP

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