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Tesla wins trial over fatal crash in US involving Autopilot

A Tesla charging station
A Tesla charging station Copyright Mike Stewart/AP Photo
Copyright Mike Stewart/AP Photo
By Euronews with AFP
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Tesla won a victory in one of the trials over Autopilot, its controversial driver assistance system.

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A court in the US sided with Tesla in a trial deciding whether the carmaker's driver assistance system led to a fatal crash in 2019.

The 12-member jury in California decided that there was no manufacturing defect in the Tesla "Autopilot" system.

Tesla has been offering this system for several years on all its new cars, which allows drivers to adapt the vehicle's speed to traffic and stay on course in a lane.

They also offer more advanced options like "Enhanced Autopilot" which allows for lane changing and parking assistance, and "Full Self-Driving" which includes slowing down the car when it approaches stop signs and traffic lights.

"The currently enabled Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous," the carmaker specifies on its website.

This case in California was over an accident in which a Tesla Model 3 turned right onto a highway near Los Angeles, struck a tree and caught fire. The driver died from his injuries.

According to survivors — two relatives of the driver — Autopilot caused the car to veer off the road and did not allow the driver to regain control.

After a month of trial and four days of deliberation, nine of the twelve members of the jury decided that there was no manufacturing defect in the Autopilot system.

"While we are disappointed by the verdict, it is undeniable that this urgent issue is now attracting national attention," Jonathan Michaels, the plaintiffs' lawyer told AFP.

"Tesla, despite its stature, was pushed to its limits during the trial. The prolonged deliberation of the jury suggests that there remains a shadow of uncertainty in the verdict."

Tesla won a previous case involving Autopilot but still faces a US Department of Justice criminal probe into its driver assistance systems.

At the start of 2022, Tesla had to deactivate an option that allowed cars not to come to a complete stop at a Stop sign under certain conditions. Another case involving Autopilot's role in a fatal crash is expected to go to trial next year.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request from AFP.

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