Tesla Emerges Victorious in Landmark Autopilot Trial

Asma Ahmed - | Autos

A California state court jury decided in favor of Tesla Inc., declaring that the electric vehicle manufacturer's Autopilot feature did not fail in what is thought to be the first trial tied to a crash employing the semi-automated driving software.

Autopilot Car Crash

The trial stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2020 by Justine Hsu, a resident of Los Angeles, who claimed that her Tesla Model S veered into a curb while operating on Autopilot. Hsu alleged defects in the autopilot system and the airbag, seeking damages exceeding $3 million. However, the jury ultimately awarded Hsu zero damages, concluding that the airbag did not malfunction and that Tesla did not intentionally withhold information.

Tesla's Defence and Verdict

In its defence, Tesla denied liability for the disaster and claimed that Hsu had used Autopilot on city streets despite warnings in the user handbook. The verdict appeared to support Tesla's position, emphasising that the partially autonomous driving software is not a self-piloted system and blaming driver distraction.

The trial, which lasted three weeks in Los Angeles Superior Court, featured testimony from three Tesla engineers. Tesla has been anticipating several more trials related to its semi-automated driving system as it faces regulatory and legal scrutiny.

Engineers' Testimony in Trial

While the outcome of this particular trial is not legally binding for future cases, experts consider it a bellwether that could shape strategies for both Tesla and plaintiffs' lawyers. Tesla has been under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department regarding its claims about self-driving capabilities, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is conducting its own probe into the safety of the technology.

Autopilot Limitations

The case serves as a reminder to Tesla owners not to overly rely on Autopilot and to be prepared to take control of the vehicle at any moment. Tesla has consistently emphasised that its driver-assistant systems, such as Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, do not render cars autonomous and that drivers must remain attentive.

As Tesla continues to advance its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems, further legal battles are likely to unfold, shaping the future of autonomous driving liability and regulations.

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Asma Ahmed
Asma Ahmed
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