Driver Faces Vehicular Manslaughter Charges In Tesla Autopilot Accident
LA County prosecutors have filed vehicular manslaughter charges against a man who ran a red light while his Tesla vehicle was on autopilot. The ensuing crash killed two people in 2019. The driver, who was a limousine driver, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, legislators are becoming much more aware of autopilot crashes and specifically, the misuse of autopilot in fatal or injurious crashes.
This is not the first prosecution of its kind. An Uber driver in Arizona faced vehicular homicide charges during a test pilot program for Uber. The vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian.
Thus far, Tesla’s autopilot AI has not faced criminal charges related to the deaths. However, chances are strong that these deaths will become wrongful death lawsuits filed against the company. It is unclear whether criminal charges filed against drivers who misuse autopilot will impact the lawsuits filed against Tesla. However, the companies that these individuals work for are still liable under the law since it was their employees who caused the crash. It is further unclear whether these prosecutions benefit companies that manufacture autopilot technology. In a civil lawsuit, Tesla can use this criminal prosecution to lay the blame on the driver who allegedly misused the autopilot.
Autopilot and personal injury lawsuits
Recently, a man in California was arrested after police noticed a vehicle without a driver driving down the street. The driver was in the backseat of the vehicle when it was pulled over. If this driver strikes another on the road, who is liable for the accident?
Right now, the sole liability could fall entirely on the driver of the vehicle since Tesla has issued warnings concerning the proper use of autopilot. Autopilot is not supposed to be used so that the driver behind the wheel can completely disengage from the task of driving. However, many fear that autonomous driving has resulted in something that the NHTSA terms “autonomation complacency.” In other words, drivers become lax in their focus on the road because they know that the autopilot has their back. But when the autopilot fails, the driver is liable for taking their attention off the road.
As of now, Tesla has faced several lawsuits related to its autopilot. But none of those lawsuits involved allegations against a human driver who misused Tesla’s system. If an individual misuses a device and causes injury, the company that manufactured the device is not typically liable for their conduct since they tried to explain the proper use of the device. Companies that don’t face lawsuits under a “failure to warn” theory of product liability. Meanwhile, Tesla has tried to prevent drivers from misusing the autopilot system and improved its ability to respond to emergency response vehicles.
Tesla is facing a separate claim filed by the families of those killed by the limo driver.
Talk to a Tampa Traffic Liability Attorney Today
If you’ve been severely injured in a traffic accident, you may be able to recover damages beyond those allowed by Florida’s no-fault system. Call the Tampa personal injury lawyers at The Matassini Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.