A California man will stand trial after a deadly crash involving his Tesla and the car’s autopilot feature.
Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, which is a felony, The Associated Press reported.
His lawyer asked if the charges could be lowered to misdemeanors, saying that any negligence by Riad would have been at most a citation if there hadn’t been a deadly crash, The Orange County Register reported.
A judge ruled this week that there was enough evidence for a trial to proceed.
Riad was driving a Tesla Model S using the car’s autopilot features in 2019 when police said the car left the freeway in Gardena, a suburb of Los Angeles, the AP reported.
It was doing 74 mph when it went through a red light and hit a Honda Civic, killing the driver and passenger, The Orange County Register reported.
Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez were on their first date the night of the accident, their families told the newspaper.
Riad and a passenger in his car were hurt in the crash and hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
Prosecutors said Tesla’s Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control were both active at the time of the crash.
An engineer for the car company said sensors showed that Riad’s hand was on the steering wheel, and that the wheel remained centered. Separate data showed that the brakes were not applied in the six minutes before the crash, the newspaper reported.
Police said that there were several signs warning drivers to slow down at the end of the freeway.
Tesla has told drivers that both Autopilot and the “Full Self-Driving” systems do not mean that drivers don’t have to pay attention. They have to be ready to react at any time.
There have been several investigations into crashes involving automated driving systems, but this is believed to be the first time felony charges against a driver using partially automated systems have been sent to trial, the Register reported.
A driver hired by Uber was charged with negligent homicide in 2020 after a fully autonomous vehicle he was testing on public roads hit a pedestrian. The man was a backup driver to the autonomous system.
The National Traffic Safety Administration is investigating another Tesla crash in Newport Beach that killed three people to see if the car was operating on a partially automated system, the AP reported.
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