The verdict represents Tesla’s second major victory this year, with juries refusing to rule that its software was defective. Tesla is testing and deploying its Autopilot and more advanced full self-driving (FSD) systems, which CEO Elon Musk says are vital to his company’s future but have drawn regulatory and legal scrutiny.
The result of the civil court shows that Tesla’s arguments gained followers: If something goes wrong on the road, the ultimate responsibility lies with the drivers.
A civil lawsuit filed in Riverside County Superior Court alleges that the Autopilot system caused owner Micah Lee’s Model 3 to suddenly swerve on a freeway east of Los Angeles at a speed of 105 kilometers per hour. , hit a palm tree and caught fire. , all in a matter of seconds.
The 2019 crash killed Lee and seriously injured his two passengers, including an 8-year-old boy, according to court documents. The trial included harrowing testimony about the passengers’ injuries, and the plaintiffs asked the jury for $400 million in additional punitive damages. Tesla denies liability, claiming that Lee had consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel. The electric vehicle maker also argued that it was unclear whether Autopilot was activated at the time of the accident.
Tesla won the previous test in Los Angeles in April with a strategy to claim that tells drivers that its technology requires human supervision, Despite the names “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” (“Autopilot” and “Full autonomous driving”, respectively). That case involved an accident in which a Model S veered off a sidewalk and injured its driver, and jurors told Reuters after the verdict that they believed Tesla had warned drivers about its system and that driver distraction is to blame.
Tesla is facing a criminal investigation by the US Department of Justice over claims that its cars can drive themselves. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Autopilot’s performance after learning of more than a dozen accidents in which Tesla vehicles collided with parked emergency vehicles. Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid said Tesla’s disclaimers give the company powerful defenses in a civil lawsuit. “I think anybody would have a hard time beating Tesla in a tort suit,” he said. “This is something the regulators need to address.”