You may remember, in late 2019, a Tesla Model S driver crashed his car near Los Angeles. Sadly, it resulted in the death of two people in a Honda Civic. Now, an LA County judge says there is enough evidence to put the Tesla owner on trial for two counts of vehicular manslaughter.
The Model S driver, Kevin George Aziz Riad, is just 27 years old. According to the authorities investigating the accident, Riad's Tesla veered off of the freeway on December 19, 2019, and then proceeded to run a red light in Gardena. The Model S was reportedly traveling 74 mph when it collided with a Honda Civic at an intersection.
The high-speed crash tragically killed both occupants of the Honda, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, who were both around 40 years old. The family of the victims told news outlets that the two were out on their very first date when their car was struck by the Model S and they were killed.
Meanwhile, Riad, the driver of the Tesla, was taken to the hospital for minor injuries. Riad also had a female passenger riding with him in the Model S. She also had non-life-threatening injuries.
According to the prosecutors working on the case against Riad, the Model S' Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control features were active at the time of the crash. An engineer who works for Tesla testified that Riad had his hands on the steering wheel, based on information relayed from sensors in the electric car. That said, the data also revealed that the brake pedal wasn't used for a full six minutes before the crash occurred.
Teslarati points out that this case will mark the very first felony prosecution in the US that applies to a case where the driver was potentially using an advanced driver-assist system when the crash occurred.
This is a developing story. While incredibly sad, it will prove interesting to see how the case unfolds, and it may set a precedent as to how the court will handle such accidents going forward.
As automakers develop and implement more advanced safety systems and driver-assistance aids, questions mount related to who's to blame in the event of an accident. The driver is assumed to be responsible for the vehicle regardless of its safety systems, but we'll have to wait and see how it all plays out.