Tesla has secured a victory in a court case regarding a 2019 accident with the company’s Autopilot feature. The California state court jury unanimously found that the partially automated driving software did not fail, as claimed by Justine Hsu, a Los Angeles resident. Hsu sued the electric vehicle maker in 2020, alleging that her Tesla Model S had swerved into a curb while on Autopilot, leading to her sustaining injuries. Hsu further alleged defects in the design of Autopilot and the airbag and sought more than $3 million in damages. However, the jury found Tesla not liable for the accident and awarded Hsu zero damages.
The victory is significant for Tesla, as it continues to test and roll out its Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving (FSD)” system. The FSD system has drawn regulatory and legal scrutiny despite being touted by CEO Elon Musk as essential to the company’s future. The ruling reaffirms Tesla’s claims that the Autopilot feature is not a self-piloted system, and that driver distraction is a leading cause of crashes.
During the court hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, Tesla presented evidence that Hsu had used Autopilot on city streets, despite the user manual warning against doing so. The car manufacturer denied liability for the accident, stating that Hsu had disregarded safety warnings and that the airbag had functioned as designed.
The win for Tesla comes as the electric vehicle industry faces increased regulatory scrutiny from safety officials. Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system following a series of crashes involving emergency vehicles. The ruling is likely to boost Tesla’s confidence in its self-driving technology and may encourage the company to accelerate its deployment plans.
Tesla’s shares rose 1.3% to close at $165.08 on the day of the verdict, reflecting investors’ relief at the positive outcome. The case sets a precedent for future court cases related to Tesla’s Autopilot feature and demonstrates the challenges plaintiffs face in proving that Autopilot is defective. Despite this victory, Tesla is likely to face continued scrutiny from regulators and critics, as it continues to develop and deploy its self-driving technology.