Monday, 28 Nov 2022

Landmark trial involving Tesla autopilot weighs if man or machine at fault

Landmark trial involving Tesla autopilot weighs if man or machine at fault


Landmark trial involving Tesla autopilot weighs if man or machine at fault

Tesla will play a major role in a manslaughter trial this week over a fatal crash caused by a vehicle operating on autopilot, in what could be a defining case for the self-driving car industry.

At the trial's heart is the question of who is legally responsible for a vehicle that can drive - or partially drive - itself.

Kevin George Aziz Riad is on trial for his role in a 2019 crash. Police say Riad exited a freeway in southern California in a Tesla Model S, ran a red light and crashed into a Honda Civic, killing Gilberto Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez. Tesla's autopilot system, which can control speed, braking and steering, was engaged at the time of the crash that killed the couple, who were on their first date.

Tesla does not face charges in the case, but trial could shape public perceptions of the company and act as a test case for whether the technology has advanced faster than legal standards, experts say.

"Who's at fault, man or machine?" Edward Walters, an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University law school who specializes in the law governing self-driving cars. "The state will have a hard time proving the guilt of the human driver because some parts of the task are being handled by Tesla."

Riad's lawyer has said that his client should not have been charged with a crime while prosecutors have argued Riad's speeding and failure to brake were reckless.

The trial comes as the electric carmaker faces growing scrutiny and criticism that its autopilot has made drivers inattentive and contributed to accidents and deaths. Elon Musk, the company cofounder, has said that Tesla is significantly more safe when used with its autopilot system, and has touted it as a step to fully autonomous driving.

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