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US Tesla driver charged with manslaughter in deadly Autopilot crash raises new legal questions about automated driving tech

04:17  22 january  2022
04:17  22 january  2022 Source:   nbcnews.com

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The Tesla driver , Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, was charged with two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for the deaths of Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez. An April 2020 civil lawsuit filed by Gilberto’s family in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleged that at the time of the December 2019 crash , Riad was traveling at an “excessively high rate of speed” while using Tesla ’s Autopilot feature. The semi- automated driving technology can steer, brake and accelerate the car on its own.

Tesla driver charged with vehicular manslaughter after two killed in collision involving ‘self- driving ’ car. A Tesla limo driver has become the first person to face felony charges in the US for vehicular manslaughter with a partially- automated driving system. His car ran a red light and hit another vehicle, killing both passengers. Kevin George Aziz Riad was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter after his Autopilot -enabled Tesla Model S ran a red light at high speed and struck a Honda Civic at an intersection in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena in December 2019.

A deadly 2019 crash involving a Tesla Model S has prompted renewed scrutiny over who should be held liable in such cases.

  Tesla driver charged with manslaughter in deadly Autopilot crash raises new legal questions about automated driving tech © Provided by NBC News

The Tesla slammed into a Honda Civic, killing both occupants.

The Tesla driver, Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, was charged with two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for the deaths of Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez.

An April 2020 civil lawsuit filed by Gilberto’s family in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleged that at the time of the December 2019 crash, Riad was traveling at an “excessively high rate of speed” while using Tesla’s Autopilot feature. The semi-automated driving technology can steer, brake and accelerate the car on its own.

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A Tesla driver in California was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter after crashing into another car and killing two people while his car was on Autopilot , the Associated Press first reported on Tuesday. It appears to be the first time a driver using semi- automated driving State prosecutors filed charges against the driver , Kevin George Aziz Riad, in October, court records show, though detailed documents were only recently released. The deadly events unfolded in a Los Angeles suburb in December 2019, when Riad's Model S sedan left the freeway, ran a red light, and crashed

The Tesla driver faces two counts of vehicular manslaughter for the accident that occurred a few years ago near Los Angeles. The driver , 27-year-old Kevin George Aziz Riad, was driving a Tesla Model S on Autopilot when he proceeded through a red light and crashed into a Honda Civic. One person inside the Model S was taken to the hospital for minor injuries. However, both the Civic' occupants were killed in the crash : Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed that Autopilot was active at the time of the crash after sending officials to investigate, The Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors said they could not immediately release further details about the case.

The charges against Riad appear to mark the first time a driver in the United States was prosecuted for a felony while using semi-automated driving technology. The case has not only renewed discussion about the dangers of misusing the technology but could potentially set a standard for holding motorists legally liable in similar incidents.

“Autopilot or not, from the second they get in a car, drivers are responsible for every single thing that happens,” said Aron Solomon, chief legal analyst for Esquire Digital, in an interview with NBC News. Referring to the gross negligence charges Riad is facing, Solomon said the legal concept for negligence is “situational.”

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The driver has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter after allegedly having Tesla ’s Autopilot system engaged when his vehicle drove through a red light resulting in a crash killing two people in 2019. NHTSA spokesperson told Gizmodo: “Whether a L2 [Level 2] automated driving system is engaged or not, every available vehicle requires the human driver to be in control at all times, and all State laws hold the human driver responsible for the operation of their vehicles.

A Tesla driver involved in a fatal wreck in California while using Autopilot has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter . The charges against limousine service driver Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, represent the first felony charges in the US for a deadly crash involving a motorist who was using Tesla ’s popular partially automated driving system, the Associated Press reported. Riad was allegedly behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S that careened off a freeway in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena, blew a red light and struck a Honda Civic in December 2019.

“The question is always what was reasonable in that situation. That’s always what the law is going to look at.”

Michael Brooks, the chief operating officer at the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on the U.S. automotive industry, said he hopes Tesla drivers and owners see this case and understand that Autopilot has limitations. “It will not drive them from any point A to any point B always safely, and they need to be responsible for the actions of the vehicle,” Brooks said.

Jonathan Handel, a lecturer in law at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and an expert in autonomous vehicles, said the case will hopefully show that semi-autonomous systems, like Autopilot, are not a replacement for human drivers.

“I think that it will have an impact on the way drivers approach the technology, and because of that, it will hopefully have an impact on the way the industry operates,” he said, adding that he believes Tesla should be held to account over the deaths.

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A Tesla driver was charged with vehicular manslaughter after he said his car was on Autopilot when it crashed into another vehicle and killed two people. NBC News' Jake Ward has the details on Tesla 's response and what this could mean for future collisions. Jury selection to begin in trial of three former officers charged in George Floyd’s death.

Tesla 's autonomous driving system, Autopilot , has been involved in hundreds of accidents, some of them even fatal. Now a driver has been charged with . The man and woman in the Honda Civic were killed. The driver of the Tesla and a passenger who was with him survived and were taken to hospital. California prosecutors accused Kevin George Aziz Riad, the driver , in October last year and now we have learned that he is facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter and is out on bail after pleading not guilty.

Tesla did not respond to multiple emailed requests for comment. In a court filing, the company argued that “the Model S meets or exceeds all of Tesla’s internal standards as well as applicable industry standards, including but not limited to those promulgated by the American National Standards Institute.”

Lopez and Nieves-Lopez were driving through the intersection of Artesia Boulevard and Vermont Avenue in the Southern California suburb of Gardena when their vehicle was struck by Riad’s car, according to the complaint.

Riad’s vehicle had been exiting a freeway when it ran a red light. Lopez and Nieves-Lopez died at the scene. Riad, a limousine service driver, and his passenger were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

On its website, Tesla says the Autopilot features are “designed to assist” drivers and require “active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

Brooks, however, said using the term autopilot could lead people to incorrectly assume the vehicle is more capable than it is, a presumption that can have deadly consequences.

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Over the years, Tesla has made headlines after accidents involving its semi-autonomous technology. In 2019, a finance executive in Florida was driving home with his Tesla Model S on Autopilot when he bent down to pick up his cellphone, according to The New York Times. The car drove past a stop sign and a blinking red light, and crashed into another vehicle, killing a 22-year-old college student. The Tesla driver was not charged in the incident.

Last May, Param Sharma was arrested in California and charged with two counts of reckless driving and disobeying a peace officer after police noticed he was in the back seat of his Tesla as it drove down a freeway with Autopilot activated. No one was injured.

“People think of it more as a self-driving or an autonomous vehicle when in fact, all that Teslas have is an advanced driver assistance system that uses things like lane departure, adaptive cruise, braking, and other functions to provide the driver with a less burdensome experience,” Brooks explained. “And so we tend to see people overestimating the capabilities of the vehicles.”

Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who studies automated vehicles, said he hopes the case alerts all motorists to pay better attention to the road, regardless of the vehicle’s capabilities.

“I don’t want people to hear this and think, ‘Oh, that’s not my problem. I don’t have a fancy expensive car.’ Because distraction and reckless driving are problems in the millions of Teslas on the road, in the tens of millions of other vehicles with driver assistance systems, and in the literally hundreds of millions of vehicles without those systems,” he said.

“This should be a wake-up call to everybody that they are driving dangerous machines.”

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