Tesla To Face Legal Challenges After Fatal Autopilot Crashes

Tesla will be going to court for the first trial involving allegations that a failure in its Autopilot feature led to a fatality, Reuters reported.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has asserted that Tesla’s self-driving feature is central to its financial future. But the company is facing two civil trials this fall, with more to follow.

The first trial is scheduled for mid-September in California. The plaintiffs allege that the Autopilot feature in Micah Lee’s Telsa Model 3 caused him to veer off a highway at 65 mph, striking a palm tree and bursting into flames.

The 2019 crash killed Lee and seriously injured two others, including an 8-year-old who was disemboweled.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the survivors of the crash and Micah Lee’s estate, claims that the electric vehicle company was aware that Autopilot and other safety features were defective at the time the car was purchased.

The second trial, which is scheduled for early October in Florida, stems from a 2019 crash near Miami where the Model 3 driven by Stephen Banner drove beneath the trailer of an 18-wheeler that pulled into the road. The roof of the vehicle was sheered off and Banner was killed when Autopilot failed to steer, brake, or make any evasive maneuver, according to the lawsuit filed by Banner’s widow.

Tesla has denied liability in both accidents, blaming driver error. The company insists the Autopilot feature is safe when monitored by the driver. In court documents, Tesla said drivers must keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road when using Autopilot.

Tesla won a lawsuit in April brought by a California woman who sued the company for $3 million after Autopilot caused her to swerve into a curb, deploying the airbag so violently that she sustained significant injuries to her face.

In the trial, Tesla argued that the company tells its drivers that the autopilot technology requires human monitoring. The jury believed Tesla’s defense that driver distraction was responsible for the crash.