Tesla has certainly been overly ambitious in advertising an Autopilot feature that doesn’t really work, and now it’s facing legal ramifications over its cars’ self-driving capabilities. The company is in the middle of two lawsuits, with trials scheduled for this fall, over crashes that allegedly involved Autopilot leading to deaths.
Reuters reports that the two trials are set to occur in mid-September and October, respectively. The September trial will be in California state court and will focus on a 2019 crash allegedly caused by a Tesla Model 3’s Autopilot, in which the car struck a tree and burst into flames after veering off a Los Angeles highway according to a civil lawsuit. The crash killed the driver, Micah Lee, and his two passengers, including an 8-year-old boy. The second crash, which also happened in 2019, will be covered in the October trial in a Florida court. The driver of a Tesla Model 3 drove underneath an 18-wheeler that pulled out in front of the car and was killed after the Autopilot allegedly did nothing to stop.
Tesla did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment on the upcoming trials.
These two lawsuits and trials are, unsurprisingly, not the first related to Tesla’s driver assistance technology. A previous civil case that named the company involved a fatal 2017 Tesla Model X crash and cited comments made by Musk in 2016 that self-driving cars were “basically a solved problem.” Tesla’s legal team argued that Musk bore no responsibility in the case since those comments could have been deefaked.
While touted as the next generation of driving technology, Tesla’s Autopilot has faced plenty of scrutiny from government agencies. A new California law effectively bans automobile manufacturers from advertising driver assistance tech as full self-driving. The law, known as Senate Bill No. 1398, states that car manufacturers and dealers must offer consumers a “clear description” of the function and limitations of semi-autonomous driver assistance features. In October 2022, it was revealed that Tesla was also facing a criminal probe from the Justice Department over the Autopilot technology. The DOJ probe was primarily concerned with whether or not Tesla falsely advertised the capabilities of its self-driving software.
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