For the first time, Tesla will defend itself in court against claims that the Autopilot driver assistance system was the cause of a fatal crash.
Musk, whose image as an engineering leader is being questioned by plaintiffs in one of two cases who claim that he directly oversees the group behind the failed technology, claims that self-driving capabilities are essential to Tesla’s financial future. Tesla’s victories boost trust and sales of the software, which can cost up to $15,000 per vehicle.
The automaker currently faces two trials; the first is set for mid-September, and the second is scheduled for early October.
In the first, a civil lawsuit alleging that the Autopilot system caused owner Micah Lee’s Model 3 to abruptly veer off a highway east of Los Angeles at 65 mph, strike a palm tree, and catch fire all within seconds, is set to be heard in a California state court mid-September.
The 2019 collision, which has not previously been published, left two of Lee’s passengers critically hurt, including an 8-year-old boy who was disemboweled. The passengers and Lee’s estate accuse Tesla of knowing that Autopilot and other safety features were flawed when it sold the car in the lawsuit they filed against the automaker.
The second trial, which is scheduled to begin in the first week of October in a Florida state court, stems from a collision that occurred in 2019 north of Miami when owner Stephen Banner’s Model 3 drove under the trailer of an 18-wheeler big rig truck that had parked into the road, tearing off the Tesla’s roof and killing Banner. According to the lawsuit brought by Banner’s wife, Autopilot did nothing to prevent the crash; the system failed to brake, steer, or anything else.
Tesla claimed driver error for both accidents, denied responsibility, and insisted that Autopilot is secure when controlled by people. According to Tesla documents, drivers must focus on the road and keep their hands firmly on the wheel. However, new information will likely come to light during these civil proceedings regarding Autopiolt’s capabilities.
The business stated, “Today, no autonomous cars are on the road.”