Tesla Cleared in First US Trial Over Autopilot’s Role in Fatal Crash

Tesla has prevailed in the first trial in the US related to allegations that its Autopilot driver-assistant feature played a role in a fatal crash. A California state court jury found that there was no manufacturing defect in the Autopilot system, clearing Tesla of responsibility in the tragic incident, Reuters reports.

The lawsuit, filed by two passengers involved in a 2019 crash, accused Tesla of being aware that the Autopilot system was defective when the vehicle was sold. The incident in question saw a Model 3 owned by Micah Lee veer off a highway near Los Angeles at a speed of 65mph (105km/h), striking a palm tree and bursting into flames. Tragically, the crash resulted in Lee’s death and left his two passengers severely injured, including an 8-year-old boy who suffered life-threatening injuries.

The heart of the lawsuit centered on alleged defects in Tesla’s Autopilot and other safety systems, which the passengers claimed the company was aware of during the sale of the vehicle. However, Tesla denied any liability, explaining during the trial that the crash was the result of human error and that Lee had consumed alcohol before taking the wheel.

The automaker also raised uncertainty about whether the Autopilot system was even engaged at the time of the accident.

Tesla was successful and found not liable in another trial involving Autopilot earlier this year, but involved only injuries, not a fatality. Tesla said during that trial that drivers are explicitly informed that their technology requires human supervision. The jurors agreed, attributing driver distraction as the primary cause of the accident.

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