Tesla Wins First Major US Lawsuit Regarding Its Autopilot Feature

Tyler Cross
Tyler Cross Senior Writer
Tyler Cross Tyler Cross Senior Writer

Tesla won the first of a series of lawsuits filed in the US over its Autopilot feature.

The Autopilot feature is Tesla’s touted self-driving feature, which despite being lauded as a revolutionary feature, has drawn a lot of legal scrutiny over its safety. Aside from this case, the US Department of Justice is currently probing the company after identifying at least a dozen cases where a car on autopilot hit stationary emergency vehicles.

In this case, opponents alleged that a malfunction in 2019 caused the car’s owner, Micah Lee, to suddenly swerve to the east while driving on the highway and crash into a tree. He was traveling 65 miles per hour down a Las Angelas highway when his car allegedly took control. The crash killed him and severely injured his two passengers, including an eight-year-old boy.

The plaintiffs asked for a settlement of $400 million plus punitive damages. Tesla’s lawyers argued against this, claiming that Mr. Lee had been drinking before the crash and that the car showed no signs of malfunctioning.

Lawyers even called into doubt whether or not the autopilot feature was even turned on at the time, which created a lot of doubt about the case.

They reinforced the idea that the Autopilot feature isn’t meant to completely replace human interaction — the car still requires manual control. In the end, it seems as though the final responsibility for accidents on the road lies with the driver, not with a potentially malfunctioning technology.

“I think that anyone is going to have a hard time beating Tesla in court on a liability claim,” claims Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid. “This is something that needs to be addressed by regulators.”

After a lengthy trial, the jury voted 9-3 in Tesla’s favor.

“The jury’s prolonged deliberation suggests that the verdict still casts a shadow of uncertainty,” says Jonathan Michaels, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

About the Author
Tyler Cross
Tyler Cross
Senior Writer

About the Author

Tyler is a writer at SafetyDetectives with a passion for researching all things tech and cybersecurity. Prior to joining the SafetyDetectives team, he worked with cybersecurity products hands-on for more than five years, including password managers, antiviruses, and VPNs and learned everything about their use cases and function. When he isn't working as a "SafetyDetective", he enjoys studying history, researching investment opportunities, writing novels, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends."