Tesla has achieved a second courtroom victory this year concerning its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technologies. This recent triumph, which centers on a fatality case, reinforces Tesla's stance that drivers bear the ultimate responsibility for their vehicle's operation.
The case in question unfolded in Riverside County Superior Court and revolved around a civil lawsuit. The plaintiffs alleged that Autopilot was the primary cause of an accident involving Micah Lee, who was driving a Tesla Model 3. The claim sought damages exceeding $400 million for the incident.
The accident resulted in Mr. Lee's vehicle veering off the highway and colliding with a tree, resulting in a fatal fire. While two passengers survived the crash, they sustained significant injuries.
Tesla vehemently contested the allegations on multiple fronts. The automaker argued that Micah Lee had reportedly consumed alcohol before the accident, and there was inconclusive evidence to confirm that Autopilot was actively engaged at the time of the collision. Tesla also emphasized its explicit communication to customers, stressing that they must remain prepared to take control of the vehicle at any moment while utilizing Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features. Ultimately, the jury sided with Tesla in a 9-to-3 vote.
This recent verdict marks the second legal win for Tesla and its semi-autonomous driving technology this year. In the previous case, the driver asserted that Autopilot had caused her to veer into a curb, resulting in significant injuries. The jury's decision in that case attributed the incident to distracted driving.
Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, noted to Reuters that these verdicts highlight the continued emphasis on human responsibility when it comes to driving. However, it's essential to acknowledge that these rulings do not impede the ongoing investigation led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The NHTSA is currently in the process of analyzing extensive data from Tesla and other sources related to Autopilot and Full Self-Driving. The aim is to establish any correlations between Tesla's semi-autonomous driving systems and various accidents across the nation. The findings from this investigation could potentially hold more significant implications than the recent court ruling.