Following the tragic death of a Tesla Model S driver (Joshua Brown) in 2016, Tesla is now facing its first major lawsuit involving a fatality involving Autopilot. The family of Brown, the deceased Tesla driver, is suing the electric car company for the wrongful death of their son.
The lawsuit, filed in December 2017, claims that Tesla was negligent in its design and manufacture of the autopilot system. In particular, it claims that the Autopilot system was unreasonably dangerous when it was installed in Brown’s Tesla Model S.
The family of Brown is asking for both compensatory and punitive damages in the lawsuit. Tesla has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that Joshua Brown was using the Autopilot system correctly. However, the family has argued that Autopilot was not designed to detect and automatically avoid large, white trailers in the roadway, which is what Brown’s car collided with leading to his death.
The case is of particular interest because it is the first major trial involving an autopilot fatality. Tesla has already made headlines in 2017 due to several autopilot-related issues, including a fatal crash in May in which a Tesla Model X was involved in a crash with a parked fire truck.
In the wake of the trial, Tesla has announced a number of improvements to Autopilot, including introducing a feature that requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times. In addition, Tesla has said that all Model S and Model X vehicles manufactured since September 2016 have a computer that is capable of processing the necessary image data for Autopilot to better detect and avoid objects in its path.
The trial is a major milestone in the debate over autonomous vehicle technology and the use of autopilot systems. It will highlight the safety and the legal implications of autonomous vehicle technology, as well as shed light on how these systems should be tested and developed for wider use. Regardless of the outcome, we can expect the debate to continue in the courts and on the streets.