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The owner of a car that was involved in a fatal crash in California was charged with two felonies, making him the first person in the US to be charged with a crime for using the car's autopilot system. The charges were reported by the AP.
The incident took place in Gardena, a suburb of LA. A man in a black Model S ran through a red light and slammed into a Honda Civic, killing two people.
According to charges filed with the California Superior Court, a limousine service driver will be charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter. The case is pending and he is free on bail.
Federal regulators have increased their scrutiny of Autopilot.
Federal regulators have increased their scrutiny of autopilot, which can control steering and braking functions as well as perform automatic lane changes on certain highways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation last year into a number of incidents involving the use of autopilot in cars. The families of deceased drivers have sued the company for wrongful death because of the Autopilot feature.
Drivers need to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel at all times, but the automaker has declined to include a more robust driver monitoring system to ensure its customers are following safety protocols. The Society of automotive Engineers requires that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road in partially automated systems.
Some drivers of the electric car company have been caught using the autopilot feature. Drivers have been found sleeping in the backseat of their vehicles while speeding down a crowded highway. A Canadian man was charged with reckless driving after being pulled over for sleeping while driving.
The criminal charges document doesn't mention Autopilot. The driver assist feature was active at the time of the crash. The findings from the investigation will be published soon.
The NHTSA reminds the public that no commercially available motor vehicle can drive itself. Every available vehicle requires the human driver to be in control at all times, and all State laws hold the human driver responsible for the operation of their vehicles.