Tesla to be sued over first autonomous car death

Electric car maker Tesla has been sued over the first death of a man killed by a car using the ‘autopilot’ feature

Tesla Dash

US carmaker Tesla has been are to be sued by the family of a Japanese man who was the first to be killed by one of the companies cars while it was being driven in the ‘autopilot’ mode.

Tomomi Umeda, the wife of the deceased, told the Northern District of California on Tuesday that while Tesla is likely to blame the crash on the "drowsy" driver of the vehicle, they feel it could have been prevented if it had better technology within the car’s autopilot feature had been utilised.

The incident isn’t the first time Tesla and its semi-autonomous cars have come under fire from safety groups. In December 2018, Visordown reported on a story that showed that in a number of circumstances, the Tesla car’s sensors did not react to or sometimes detect even large motorcycle riding alongside them. Add to that the highly unsurprising report that the Tesla’s television-sized dash is a dangerous distraction for drivers, and it makes you wonder who it took this long to get to court.

The complaint centres around Tesla’s use of the public highway as a testbed for such technologies.

"Tesla's decision to release a half-baked product to the public that is currently still in a 'beta-testing' stage of development continues to put the general public, other motorists, and all of those who share the road with Tesla's vehicles, including pedestrians and the drivers of Tesla's vehicles themselves, at risk of becoming the next casualty," Tomomi Umeda said in the complaint.

It is stated that the crash was a result of defective technology in the Tesla, causing it to fail to recognise other cars changing lanes in front of it, pedestrians, motorcycles and even a stationary van – all of which are conmon sights on roads around the globe. They argue that because Tesla is gathering data in the real world to use in its cars, which gets shared via downloadable updates to the car, there will always be certain scenarios that the system will now have seen or be able to recognise.

The case continues.