Potentially Groundbreaking Tesla Autopilot Trial Begins in California
Written by Joey Klender, Teslarati
Published Sept. 28, 2023
Tesla went to trial Sept. 28 in what could be an important trial in terms of driver assistance features.
Opening statements were set to begin in a California courtroom in a case stemming from a crash that resulted in the death of one person and injuries to two more, who are suing Tesla and accusing Autopilot of causing the accident.
In 2019, Micah Lee’s Tesla Model 3 suddenly veered off a Los Angeles highway at 65 mph and struck a palm tree, according to the suit, filed by the two passengers and Lee’s estate. The car then caught fire.
Ttwo passengers, one of whom was an 8-year-old boy, were seriously injured. The suit accuses Tesla of knowing Autopilot and other active safety features were defective when it sold the Model 3 to Lee.
Tesla claims Lee consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel and said it cannot confirm whether Autopilot was engaged when the accident occurred.
A similar lawsuit was recently decided in April. Justine Hsu claimed her Model S swerved into a curb while operating on Autopilot. The collision gave Hsu a fractured jaw, missing teeth and nerve damage to her face.
Hsu sought more than $3 million in damages, but a California court awarded her zero damages and acquitted Tesla of any wrongdoing.
It was a major victory for Tesla, as it was the first of potentially many cases involving a plaintiff getting in an accident and blaming a car company’s semi-autonomous vehicle capabilities.
However, the case brought by the two passengers is more significant and could set a precedent for future cases because there was a fatality involved.
Reuters said the pre-trial battle has been intense, and Tesla has succeeded in getting some of CEO Elon Musk’s public statements about Autopilot excluded from evidence.
Lee’s family will be able to argue his blood alcohol content was below the legal limit.
Tesla has never claimed Autopilot, nor its Full Self-Driving suite, is capable of fully autonomous driving. Disclaimers from the company state the driver must pay attention to the road and its surroundings, as they are responsible for taking control of the vehicle.