Tesla wins California Autopilot accident case

Tesla earned a victory Friday after a California jury found the automaker not at fault in a 2019 accident involving its advanced driver assistance system, known as Autopilot.

The jury awarded no damages to Los Angeles resident Justine Hsu, who sued Tesla in 2020 alleging negligence, fraud and breach of contract. This appears to be the first case involving Autopilot to go to trial. Reuters was the first to report the verdict.

Hsu said in his lawsuit that the Tesla Model S he was driving had autopilot engaged when it spun and struck a median on a city street. The airbags deployed, fracturing his jaw and causing nerve damage, the lawsuit alleges.

The jury found that Tesla was not at fault and the airbag deployed as it should. The court filing also said that Tesla properly warned users not to use the system while driving on city streets, which Hsu did.

The court ruling provides a victory for Tesla as it faces increased scrutiny from federal and state regulators over Autopilot, as well as upgraded versions of the system called Enhanced Autopilot and full self-driving software.

Tesla vehicles come standard with an Autopilot-branded driver assistance system. For a $6,000 upgrade, owners can purchase Enhanced Autopilot, which includes several other features.

For an additional $15,000, owners can purchase “full self-driving,” or FSD, a feature that CEO Elon Musk has promised for years will one day offer full self-driving capabilities. Tesla vehicles are not autonomous.

Instead, FSD includes a number of automated driving features that still require the driver to be ready to take control at all times. It includes the parking Summon feature, as well as Navigate on Autopilot, an active guidance system that steers a car from the on-ramp to the freeway off-ramp, including interchanges and lane changes. The system is also supposed to handle direction on city streets and recognize and react to traffic lights and stop signs.

In February, Tesla halted the rollout of its Full Self-Driving beta software in the United States and Canada following a recall of the system that federal safety regulators warned could allow vehicles to act unsafely at intersections and cause accidents.

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