California prosecutors have filed what appear to be the first felony charges in the United States against a motorist using a partially automated driver assistance system. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is charging the driver of a Tesla involved in a fatal Autopilot-related collision in 2019 with two counts of vehicular manslaughter.
AP News reports that prosecutors filed charges in October, alleging that the defendant, Kevin George Aziz Riad, ran a red light in his Tesla Model S with Autopilot active and collided with another vehicle, killing its two passengers.
In 2020, prosecutors in Arizonawith negligent homicide when her autonomous SUV struck and killed a pedestrian, but that vehicle was still in its testing phase. The two vehicular manslaughter charges brought against Riad are believed to be the first raised against a driver using a partially automated technology that is widely available for consumers to buy and use on the road today, which means it could set a precedent for incidents involving motorists using not only Tesla's Autopilot and technologies but also similar systems from other automakers, such as in GM vehicles and Ford's new tech.
This isn't the first time that Tesla finds itself at the center of litigation surrounding its driver aid tech. In 2019,for wrongful death after a fatal Autopilot collision in Florida. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also announced back in August that it is and a dozen crashes involving the technology and collisions with parked emergency vehicles. The families of the passengers who died in the 2019 crash are bringing separate civil lawsuits against Tesla and Riad.
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Riad is currently free on bail awaiting his preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for Feb. 23.