Tesla Autopilot Trial Will Determine if ‘Man or Machine’ Is Responsible For Fatal Crash

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Tesla Autopilot Trial Will Determine if ‘Man or Machine’ Is Responsible For Fatal Crash

Stillman & Friedland

2 min read

A manslaughter trial in Los Angeles is set to begin in several weeks, and its outcome could have significant ramifications for the newly emerging autonomous driving industry. In a first-of-its-kind legal case, a jury will determine to what extent humans vs. machines were responsible for a deadly crash involving a Tesla Model S that was partially driving itself.

Tesla Autopilot Responsible For Fatal Crash

In 2019, a 28-year-old driver of a Tesla ran a red light at a high rate of speed and killed a young couple on their first date. At the time, Tesla’s Autopilot system was engaged, which among other things, can control speed, braking, and steering. Tesla itself is not facing any charges stemming from the incident.

As we have previously reported, autonomous driving technology rapidly advances and outpaces legal standards and regulations in many ways. This case appears to have significant hurdles for the prosecution. As a prominent legal scholar noted, “The state will have a hard time proving the guilt of the human driver because some parts of the task are being handled by Tesla.”

Is Tesla Company Responsible?

However, Tesla has repeatedly warned drivers about becoming too dependent on its autonomous mode and says on the company website that driver assistance systems “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.” Critics have long claimed Tesla’s vehicles, and others like them, contribute to accidents and deaths by making their drivers more inattentive.

The trial, set to begin on November 15th, 2022, will be closely followed by legal experts as it has the potential to set precedents for similar cases going forward. In addition, a wrongful death suit against Tesla is scheduled for later next year, brought on by the family of one of the crash victims.


Regardless of the outcomes of these cases, autonomous driving technology is here to stay, so familiarity with these systems and adequately addressing safety issues will ultimately encourage broader public adoption and reduce consumer hesitancy.

If you or a family member have been injured or suffered a loss due to a vehicle accident, contact our Nashville-based office at 615-244-2111 for a free and confidential consultation, and we will assist you with your case. Our law firm works on a contingency basis. Unless we reach a settlement or jury verdict award on your behalf, there is no fee.

Because we care.

Stillman & Friedland Attorneys