Your #1 source for auto industry news and content


Tesla wins first US trial over Autopilot’s alleged role in fatal crash

With the verdict, Tesla achieved its second significant victory of the year, as juries have refused to conclude that the company's software is flawed.

A significant win for Tesla, which currently is the subject of several lawsuits and federal investigations pertaining to driver assistance technology, came on October 31 when it emerged victorious in the first U.S. trial concerning allegations that its Autopilot feature caused a fatal accident.

With this verdict, Tesla achieved its second significant victory of the year, as juries refuse to conclude that the company’s software is flawed. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has portrayed the company’s more sophisticated Full Self-Driving (FSD) system, which is under regulatory and legal scrutiny, as critical to the company’s future.

Two passengers in a 2019 crash filed the lawsuit that ended Tuesday in a California state court. They claimed the company knew the car’s Autopilot was flawed when it sold it. However, the EV maker said the crash resulted from human error. As a result, the 12-person jury declared there was no manufacturing flaw in the car, and on the fourth day of the trial, the vote was 9-3 in favor of the verdict (Tesla). 

In addition, according to court documents of the Riverdale, CA, case, Model 3 owner Micah Lee was killed in the 2019 crash, and two of his passengers, including an eight-year-old boy who was disemboweled, suffered severe injuries. The plaintiffs requested $400 million in punitive damages from the jury during the trial, which featured graphic testimony regarding the injuries suffered by the passengers. Tesla defended itself, claiming Lee drank alcohol before operating the car. The manufacturer of electric vehicles further contended that it was unclear if Autopilot was activated at the moment of the collision.

A plaintiff’s attorney presented jurors with an internal Tesla safety analysis from 2017 that identified “incorrect steering command” as a defect involving an “excessive” steering wheel angle during the Riverside trial.

Ultimately, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation against Tesla for its self-driving car claims. Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been looking into how well Autopilot works after discovering that Tesla vehicles have collided with stationary emergency vehicles in over a dozen crashes.

Stay up to date on exclusive content from CBT News by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our free newsletter to receive all the latest news, insight and trends impacting the automotive industry.

CBT News is part of the JBF Business Media family.

Jaelyn Campbell
Jaelyn Campbell
Jaelyn Campbell is a staff writer/reporter for CBT News. She is a recent honors cum laude graduate with a BFA in Mass Media from Valdosta State University. Jaelyn is an enthusiastic creator with more than four years of experience in corporate communications, editing, broadcasting, and writing. Her articles in The Spectator, her hometown newspaper, changed how people perceive virtual reality. She connects her readers to the facts while providing them a voice to understand the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the digital world.

Related Articles

Latest Articles

From our Publishing Partners