Tesla wins first US Autopilot trial involving fatal crash

A Tesla Model X is shown at a Tesla service center in Costa Mesa, California, U.S., October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photoon Tuesday won the first U.S. trial over allegations that its Autopilot driver assistant feature led to a death, a major victory for the automaker as it faces several other similar lawsuits across the country.

The case, in a California state court, was filed by two passengers in a 2019 crash who accused the company of knowing Autopilot was defective when it sold the car. Tesla argued human error caused the crash.

The 12-member jury on Tuesday announced they found the vehicle did not have a manufacturing defect. The verdict came on the fourth day of deliberations, and the vote was 9-3.The civil lawsuit alleged the Autopilot system caused owner Micah Lee’s Model 3 to suddenly veer off a highway east of Los Angeles at 65 miles per hour (105 km per hour), strike a palm tree and burst into flames, all in the span of seconds. headtopics.com

The 2019 crash killed Lee and seriously injured his two passengers, including a then-8-year-old boy who was disemboweled, court documents show. The lawsuit, filed against Tesla by the passengers, accuses the company of knowing that Autopilot and other safety systems were defective when it sold the car.

Tesla denied liability, saying Lee consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel. The electric-vehicle maker also claims it was unclear whether Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash. Tesla has been testing and rolling out its Autopilot and more advanced Full Self-Driving (FSD) system, which Chief Executive Elon Musk has touted as crucial to his company’s future but which has drawn regulatory and legal scrutiny. headtopics.com

Tesla won an earlier trial in Los Angeles in April with a strategy of saying that it tells drivers that its technology requires human monitoring, despite the “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” names.

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