The driver of a Tesla that ran a red light and crashed into another car killing two people, all while Autopilot was engaged, has been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter by California prosecutors.
It is believed to be the first time a person has been charged with a felony in the U.S. while using a widely used and publicly available driver-assist system, according to The Washington Post.
The incident took place on December 29, 2019, in Gardena, California. The driver, 27-year old Kevin George Aziz Riad was travelling at a high rate of speed when he exited off a freeway.
According to an investigation by the NHTSA, Autopilot was engaged when the Model S ran a red light. The car then hit a Honda Civic, killing both occupants, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez.
The criminal charges do not mention Autopilot, but will likely be brought up during the trial and could impact the verdict.
The case should serve as a wake-up call for anyone that abuses Tesla’s driver-assist system.
As the automaker states in its owner’s manuals, website, and in the car itself, drivers are always fully responsible for the vehicle. They are also reminded to keep their hands on the wheel, and should be ready to take over control at any time when Autopilot is engaged.
It is also important to note that at the time of the incident, Tesla had not yet released Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control.
The feature added the ability for the car stop at traffic lights and stop signs when Autopilot is engaged, but was only released in mid-2020.