Tesla wins first round for its ‘autopilot’ role in fatal crash

Tesla won a victory Tuesday in one of the trials over “Autopilot,” its controversial driver assistance system: A jury found there was no manufacturing defect in a Tesla involved in a fatal crash in 2019 .

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“While we are disappointed by the verdict, it is undeniable that this urgent issue is now attracting national attention,” Jonathan Michaels, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told AFP.

“Tesla, despite his stature, was pushed to his limits during the trial. The jury’s lengthy deliberations suggest there is still a shadow of uncertainty in the verdict,” he said.

The case, which was decided Tuesday in a Riverside County court in Southern California, involves a crash that occurred after a 2019 Tesla Model 3 car turned right on a road near Los Angeles, struck a tree and caught fire. The driver died from his injuries.

According to the survivors, two relatives of the driver, the autopilot caused the car to veer off the road and did not allow the driver to regain control.

After a month of trial and four days of deliberation, nine of the twelve jurors decided that there was no manufacturing defect in the driver assistance system in this vehicle.

His verdict, however, does not exonerate the software in general, which many players and industry experts have accused of giving drivers the false impression that the car is driving itself.

Tesla has for years offered “Autopilot” in all of its new cars, which allows it to adapt speed to traffic and stay on course in a lane. The group specifies on its website that the driver must be vigilant, with his hands on the wheel.

Elon Musk’s flagship also offers and tests more advanced options such as lane change, parking assistance or taking into account traffic lights, integrated depending on the country in the “Enhanced Autopilot” or “Capacity of fully autonomous driving”.

The billionaire has been promising complete autonomy soon for years.

In early 2022, Tesla had to turn off an option that allowed cars not to come to a complete stop at “Stop” under certain conditions.

Another case involving Autopilot’s role in a fatal crash is expected to go to trial next year.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request from AFP.