A 2019 automobile accident that claimed the life of a 50-year-old man has resulted in a trial that will call Tesla CEO Elon Musk and National Highway Traffic Safety Advisor Missy Cummings as witnesses. The trial will dial in on Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, which Banner’s family’s lawyers have blamed for the accident.
In March 2019, Banner was involved in a fatal accident when his Tesla Model 3 collided with a semi-truck on a highway in Florida. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that Banner activated Autopilot just ten seconds before the collision. Tesla, in an email to ABC News in 2019, stated:
“Shortly following the accident, we informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board that the vehicle’s logs showed that Autopilot was first engaged by the driver just 10 seconds prior to the accident, and then the driver immediately removed his hands from the wheel. Autopilot had not been used at any other time during that drive. We are deeply saddened by this accident and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Accidents invovling Teslas are unfortunately some of the most publicized events in the automotive industry due to Autopilot. Anytime a Tesla crashes, media often immediately assumes Autopilot or Full Self-Driving is to blame. However, Tesla never advises drivers to take their hands off the wheel when activating the functionality.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Tesla attorneys can push back against Musk taking the stand as a witness. They have attempted to persuade the judge to deny a request from Banner’s family to have Musk appear before the trial when evidence is gathered.
Additionally, Missy Cummings, who is a vocal skeptic of Autopilot and Tesla in general, will be called to the stand as a witness. Cummings was appointed to the position of Advisor to the NHTSA last month, much to the chagrin of Tesla supporters, who were quick to call out her past biases against Tesla’s semi-autonomous software.
The trial is listed as Banner v. Tesla Inc., 50-2019-CA-0099662, Circuit Court of 15th Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County, Florida.
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