The driver of a Tesla running on autopilot is facing trial in a crash that killed two in a suburb of Los Angeles, a judge ruled Thursday.
There is enough evidence to try Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, on two counts of manslaughter, a Los Angeles County judge has said.
A judge ruled on Thursday that a trial could proceed against a Tesla Model S driver in a 2019 crash that left two dead in Gardena.
It is believed to be the first criminal prosecution in the United States against a driver using a partially automated driving system.
Police say the Tesla Model S left a freeway and ran a red light in Gardena and was traveling 119 km/h when it crashed into a Honda Civic at an intersection on December 29, 2019.
The crash killed Gilberto Alcazar Lopez, 40, of Rancho Dominguez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, 39, of Lynwood, who were in the Civic and were on their first date that night, relatives said in the Orange County Register.
Riad and a woman in the Tesla were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
Prosecutors said Tesla’s Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control were active. A Tesla engineer testified that sensors indicated Riad had one hand on the wheel, but crash data showed no brakes were applied in the six minutes before the crash.
A police officer testified Thursday that several signs warning motorists to slow down were posted near the end of the freeway.
Tesla said Autopilot and a more sophisticated “Full Self-Driving” system can’t drive itself, and drivers need to pay attention and be ready to respond at all times.
Misuse of the autopilot, which can control steering, speed and braking, has occurred numerous times and is being investigated by two federal agencies. The filing of charges in the California crash could mean drivers who use systems like Autopilot that they can’t rely on them to control vehicles.
The criminal charges are not the first involving an automated driving system, but they are the first to involve widely used driving technology. Authorities in Arizona have filed a 2020 negligent homicide lawsuit against a driver Uber hired to help test a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads. The Uber vehicle, an SUV with the human rescue driver on board, struck and killed a pedestrian.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed on Wednesday that it had dispatched a special accident investigation team to determine if a Tesla involved in a May 12 crash in Newport Beach that killed three people was running on a partially automated driving system.
Security camera video in Columbus, Ohio captured the moment a high-speed Tesla crashed into the Columbus Convention Center.