Felony charge filed against Tesla driver for the first time after fatal crash

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has charged a Tesla driver with vehicular manslaughter. The driver of the Tesla was involved in a fatal collision that was related to Autopilot. Although the charge by California prosecutors was filed in October, AP was the first to report the news after it came in the forefront, last week.

According to AP News, prosecutors filed two counts of vehicular manslaughter against Kevin George Aziz Riad. He allegedly ran a red light in Gardena, a suburb of LA when his Tesla Model S was driven at high speed. It collided with a Honda Civic on December 29. Two passengers in the second vehicle—Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez were killed in the crash. They died at the scene while Riad and a woman in the Tesla were hospitalized. They had non-life threatening injuries.

Riad pleaded not guilty and is currently free after posting bail. The preliminary hearing in his case is scheduled for February 23. This is the first felony charge against a driver who used a partially automated technology called Autopilot, which is available for sale and use by drivers. This case could set a precedent for incidents involving motorists who used automated technology.

Although Tesla has gained prominence for its much touted Autopilot and Full Self Driving beta by its CEO Elon Musk, mainly on Twitter, other automakers could also face charges in future, if such accidents occur more frequently. GM vehicles have Super Cruise technology. Ford has its Blue Cruise technology and Volvo has Red Pilot which is still being developed.

The families of those who died in the fatal collision have filed separate lawsuits against both Riad as well as Tesla. There is no comment from Tesla as it does not have a public relations department to respond when asked for comment. Riad’s attorney has not responded to requests for comment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating several crashes by Tesla vehicles including use of its Autopilot technology in both fatal and non fatal collisions in many states across the nation.

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