A Tesla driver, who ran a red light, slammed into another car and killed two people while driving on Autopilot in 2019, has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter.
Kevin George Aziz Riad, the driver, has pleaded not guilty. The 27-year-old is a limousine service driver. He is free on bail while the case is pending.
Riad is the first person to be charged with a felony in the US for a crash that involved the use of a partially automated driving system.
Tesla’s website says that Autopilot ‘enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane. Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous’. In simple terms, it can control the steering, speed and break.
However, this case brings into light the fall-out of the Autopilot technology and serve a notice to drivers that they cannot fully rely on it.
Authorities in Arizona filed a charge of negligent homicide in 2020 against a driver Uber had hired to take part in the testing of a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads. The Uber vehicle, an SUV with the human backup driver on board, struck and killed a pedestrian.
In the Tesla crash, a Model S was moving at a high speed when it left a freeway and ran a red light in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena and struck a Honda Civic at an intersection on Dec. 29, 2019, police said.
Two people, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, who were in the car died at the scene. Riad and a woman in the Tesla were hospitalised with non-life threatening injuries.
Criminal charging documents do not mention Autopilot. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sent investigators to the crash, confirmed last week that Autopilot was in use in the Tesla at the time of the crash.
Riad’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 23.
With inputs from the Associated Press