Most people would think that the word “autopilot” means that the car drives itself. However, the word is misleading because really the feature is only meant to assist the driver and the driver must supervise the technology at all times. The danger in using autopilot is that the vehicle will not drive itself error free. The autopilot feature is known to disregard stop signs and red lights, causing deadly intersection accidents.
In one such car, in 2019 deadly crash involved a Tesla Model S the driver who allowed autopilot to do the driving. The Tesla exited the freeway at high speeds, ran a stop sign and then slammed into a passing Honda Civic, killing both occupants, according to NBC News.
Drivers need to know that the case led to the Tesla driver, Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, being charged with two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for the deaths of two Honda Civic occupants, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez.
In addition to criminal charges, the family of the two victims field a wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging that at the time of the December 2019 crash, Riad was traveling at an “excessively high rate of speed” while using Tesla’s Autopilot feature. The semi-automated driving technology can steer, brake, and accelerate the car on its own, but requires driver supervision at all times.
According to investigators for driver assistance technologies at the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed that Autopilot was active at the time of the crash after sending officials to investigate, Press reported.
The criminal charges underscore the fact that drivers are ultimately responsible for what the vehicle does and does not do. The semi-automated driving technology is no substitute for human input. This is a clear example of the dangers of misusing the autopilot driving technology.
Drivers need to know the autopilot feature has limitations and human supervision is necessary at all times while behind the wheel of a car with this driver assist feature. Many people do not read the manual that comes with the car and mistakenly assume that autopilot means the car will do everything for them. Auto pilot technology has dangerous limitations that can lead to criminal charges in the event of a crash with another motorist or pedestrian.
Drivers need to be responsible for the car regardless of the features and capabilities of the vehicle. It is the responsibility of the user to know the limitations of the autopilot feature.
The criminal case in California highlights those semi-autonomous systems, using Autopilot, are not a replacement for human drivers.
In these situations, the drivers need to realize that the technology has dangerous limitations, and they could be held responsible for the consequences of any driving error associated with using the technology. Tesla and other auto industry leaders need to seriously think about change the use of the word autopilot to auto assist because consumers can be misled by the meaning of the word.
On Tesla website, the warning states that the Autopilot feature is “designed to assist” drivers and drivers of semi-autonomous vehicles require, “active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
Underscoring the dangers of autopilot systems, the NHTSA issued a cease and desist letter to stop selling an Autopilot Buddy product.
Drivers need to be aware that over the years drivers have been charged with criminal offenses for allowing the car to drive itself without any driver supervision. This is a serious mistake that can lead to deadly consequences and criminal charges brought against the driver.
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