Tesla driver first to face felony charges in crash involving autopilot

A California man appears to be the first in the U.S. to be charged with a felony relating to a deadly crash involving Tesla’s partially automated driving system.

Two vehicular manslaughter charges were filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors against Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, for his role in a December 2019 crash in the Gardena suburb. 

According to The Associated Press, Riad was driving the Tesla Model S at a high speed when it departed a freeway and ran through a red light in the suburban area, striking a Honda Civic at an intersection in late December of 2019.

The two who died at the scene were both in the Civic, Gilberto Alcazar Lopes and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez. Riad along with a woman in the Tesla were hospitalized, but sustained non-life threatening injuries.

The misuse of Autopilot systems, which can control a vehicle’s steering, speed, and breaking, has occurred on several occasions and is currently the subject of investigations by two federal agencies. Charges relating to the California crash could send a warning to drivers who use Autopilot and other systems that they cannot safely rely on them to completely control their vehicles in a safe manner. 

Autopilot as well as other driver-assist programs are used widely on roads across the world. In the United States alone, an estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles are equipped with the technology. Tesla disbanded its media relations department, but messages have been left seeking comments from the company.

Once Autopilot crashes have started happening, Tesla updated the software in order to make it difficult for drivers to abuse it. It has also attempted the technology’s ability to detect emergency vehicles.




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