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San Lorenzo family blames Tesla Autopilot for crash that killed teen son: lawsuit

cwerdna

Active Member
Jul 11, 2012
3,643
2,548
SF Bay Area, CA

TresLA

Member
Jul 15, 2018
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70
L.A.

Ford Explorer seemed to be trying to pass the truck they were tailing (which also had its turn signal on and was moving into the same lane). The boy wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Considering the traffic in both adjacent lanes, the Tesla driver should probably have slowed down long before the video clip even starts, but he did have right-of-way. Sad situation all around.
 

Economite

Member
Dec 19, 2016
490
416
Los Angeles
The dashcam shows that the pickup driver was reckless.
Nonsense... The pickup driver signaled for his lane change plenty of time before he made the movement. The Tesla, which was going way faster than traffic in the lanes to either of its sides, didn't react at all to the signal or to the fact that the pickup was partially in the Tesla's lane. Any normal driver would have slowed down, rather than slam into the pickup.

If Tesla is going to encourage the users of its experimental software to use it in situations like this (which Tesla shouldn't be doing), then Tesla (and its insurance) should be liable to third parties when they get injured or killed by the fact that the software doesn't behave like a normal driver. The third party who got killed shouldn't be limited to recovering the policy limit from a Tesla driver (which may be as low as $15,000). If Tesla isn't willing to stand by (and pay for) the results of its open-to-all-users beta test, it shouldn't be making the software available until the software is in better shape.

This isn't a case where a Tesla driver killed themselves playing around with the Tesla software. This is a case where the Tesla driver killed someone else using the software in basically the manner in which it is intended to be used. If the software is going to make mistakes like this (and simulate a rude and inattentive driver who doesn't care about lane change signals), it probably shouldn't have been released onto the public roads. But since it was released onto the public roads, Tesla should be liable to the people it kills. Other drivers on the road didn't agree to be part of Tesla's experiment in rushing out "Beta" software. Tesla created a dangerous toy. It should be liable for what the toy does to other drivers when the toy is used by a Tesla operator in a normal way (like driving straight on the freeway).

Mark
 

qdeathstar

Completely Serious
May 17, 2019
3,466
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VB
Ambulance chasing lawyers and irresponsible parents that didn't make their kid buckle up looking for a fat payday.Can I sue Honda since a car that rear ended me didnt come with good enough automatic emergency braking to stop its inattentive driver from crashing into me?
You can sue them. You just won’t win. I doubt these people win too. The video is ok slow motion so its hard to make firm conclusions, but the truck went into a different lane and the driver apparently wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Subtract those two elements no death...
 

drtimhill

Active Member
Apr 25, 2019
1,949
2,447
Seattle
This isn't a case where a Tesla driver killed themselves playing around with the Tesla software. This is a case where the Tesla driver killed someone else using the software in basically the manner in which it is intended to be used. If the software is going to make mistakes like this (and simulate a rude and inattentive driver who doesn't care about lane change signals), it probably shouldn't have been released onto the public roads. But since it was released onto the public roads, Tesla should be liable to the people it kills. Other drivers on the road didn't agree to be part of Tesla's experiment in rushing out "Beta" software. Tesla created a dangerous toy. It should be liable for what the toy does to other drivers when the toy is used by a Tesla operator in a normal way (like driving straight on the freeway).
Have you read the Tesla user manual at all? And in particular, the clear warnings about being attentive and being prepared to take over in an emergency?

AP is basically a more sophisticated cruise control. Do you expect every car crash involving any form of cruise control to be blamed on the car maker? If not, why is Tesla different? What specific features, documented by Tesla, do you think makes them liable for not preventing this tragedy?

Traditional dumb cruise control would never have prevented an accident like that. Today's smarter cruise controls, like AP, can indeed prevent some accidents such as these. You seem to be saying that is a bad thing .. that we should either have perfect smart cruise control (good luck waiting for that!) or go back to dumb cruise control which doesnt prevent any accidents at all. That seems ridiculous to me.

Or are you saying the driver was lulled into a feeling that they didn't need to pay attention because it was "auto pilot"? Again, go read the Tesla manual, and see what it clearly says. If the driver did think he could sit back and not bother paying attention, then isnt the liability clearly on the driver for not understanding how to use the system?

Of course this accident was a tragedy, every accident like this is, no matter where the blame lies. But knee-jerk hysterical reactions to things like this are stupid. Go watch YouTube and see the times the safety systems on the Tesla have prevented serious accidents. And then reflect on what you are saying, which is apparently that the car should not have such safety systems.
 

roblab

Active Member
Jul 15, 2008
3,656
2,724
Angwin (Napa Valley) CA
Sounds like California licensing laws are getting too lax. It used to be required to take a driving test, where they would check things like how you wore your seat belt, how you signaled, how you obeyed traffic laws and signs. Our daughter died far too young because she went against our teaching and California law and drove while under the influence. Children don't always listen, do they? Anyway, we did not sue the pickup driver she hit. It was her fault.
 

Dan D.

Member
Dec 7, 2020
677
757
Vancouver, BC
You can sue them. You just won’t win. I doubt these people win too. The video is ok slow motion so its hard to make firm conclusions, but the truck went into a different lane and the driver apparently wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Subtract those two elements no death...
The Tesla driver has been faulted for the accident, this according to the lawyer for Tesla:

In emails to Mr. Swanson’s firm that have been filed as exhibits in court, a Tesla lawyer, Ryan McCarthy, said the driver, not Tesla, bore responsibility.
“The police faulted the Tesla driver — not the car — for his inattention and his driving at an unsafe speed,” Mr. McCarthy wrote.


So then the question is whether Autopilot also shares some of the blame. That's the issue, not the pickup driver nor that the passenger wasn't wearing a seatbelt.
 

stopcrazypp

Well-Known Member
Dec 8, 2007
10,821
5,755
Sad situation, but there is plenty of blame to go around. While the Tesla should have slowed down, the pickup also should have made sure the path was clear before changing lanes. Also this probably wouldn't have been a death if the passenger was belted.

I doubt they'll be able to get Tesla as liable given as pointed out, it'll be like suing to blame cruise control. There is no L2 system out there that guarantees being able to stop for everything. But it's common that lawyers will try to pursue the parties that have the most money, regardless of actual fault.
 

Dan D.

Member
Dec 7, 2020
677
757
Vancouver, BC
Sad situation, but there is plenty of blame to go around. While the Tesla should have slowed down, the pickup also should have made sure the path was clear before changing lanes. Also this probably wouldn't have been a death if the passenger was belted.

I doubt they'll be able to get Tesla as liable given as pointed out, it'll be like suing to blame cruise control. There is no L2 system out there that guarantees being able to stop for everything. But it's common that lawyers will try to pursue the parties that have the most money, regardless of actual fault.
Might Tesla settle out of court to keep this from going through discovery and the continued bad press of a public court case involving the death of a minor?
 

qdeathstar

Completely Serious
May 17, 2019
3,466
2,477
VB
The Tesla driver has been faulted for the accident, this according to the lawyer for Tesla:

In emails to Mr. Swanson’s firm that have been filed as exhibits in court, a Tesla lawyer, Ryan McCarthy, said the driver, not Tesla, bore responsibility.
“The police faulted the Tesla driver — not the car — for his inattention and his driving at an unsafe speed,” Mr. McCarthy wrote.


So then the question is whether Autopilot also shares some of the blame. That's the issue, not the pickup driver nor that the passenger wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

interesting.....
 

powertoold

Active Member
Oct 10, 2014
2,837
5,323
USA
The dashcam was intentionally slowed down to make it seem like the Tesla had plenty of time to brake. I think it’s playing at about half speed (look at the cadence of the pickup’s right signal).

In this case, AP was performing poorly, but the Tesla driver and pickup had some part of the blame. I’d say the blame is 20% pickup, 80% Tesla driver.

edit: the video was played twice, one at real speed, another slowed down.
 

stopcrazypp

Well-Known Member
Dec 8, 2007
10,821
5,755
Might Tesla settle out of court to keep this from going through discovery and the continued bad press of a public court case involving the death of a minor?
That might be what the lawyer is betting on also. That's why they try to include as much parties as possible, as long as they get the money, it doesn't really matter who's really at fault or why they are paying out the money.
 
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cwerdna

Active Member
Jul 11, 2012
3,643
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SF Bay Area, CA
Driver's fault if going way above speed limit.
Unfortunately, I don't know which freeway. It's possible the speed limit was 65 mph which is very common for Bay Area freeways, so 69 mph isn't way above.
Nonsense... The pickup driver signaled for his lane change plenty of time before he made the movement. The Tesla, which was going way faster than traffic in the lanes to either of its sides, didn't react at all to the signal or to the fact that the pickup was partially in the Tesla's lane. Any normal driver would have slowed down, rather than slam into the pickup.
Indeed. Besides the speed limit, in CA we have the "basic speed law". Per Laws and Rules of the Road - California DMV

Speed Limits​

California’s “Basic Speed Law” means that you may never drive faster than is safe for current conditions.

Regardless of the posted speed limit, your speed should depend on:
  • The number and speed of other vehicles on the road.
  • Whether the road surface is smooth, rough, graveled, wet, dry, wide, or narrow.
  • Bicyclists or pedestrians on or crossing the roadway.
  • Whether it is raining, foggy, snowing, windy, or dusty.
Seems clear the Tesla driver was going much faster than what was safe given the traffic around him was going slower.

If you signal, see that the coast is clear and change lanes then a car coming out of nowhere much faster than everyone else barrelling into you isn't the norm. The pickup truck driver may not have been able to see the Tesla coming. Even if he did, he possibly couldn't tell and/or didn't expect it to be going that fast (given everyone else).

However, the unbelted child is a big no no. If wearing a seat belt, the child might have survived but still likely would have some pretty serious injuries.
 
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stopcrazypp

Well-Known Member
Dec 8, 2007
10,821
5,755
Unfortunately, I don't know which freeway. It's possible the speed limit was 65 mph which is very common for Bay Area freeways, so 69 mph isn't way above.

Indeed. Besides the speed limit, in CA we have the "basic speed law". Per Laws and Rules of the Road - California DMV

Seems clear the Tesla driver was going much faster than what was safe given the traffic around him was going slower.

If you signal, see that the coast is clear and change lanes then a car coming out of nowhere much faster than everyone else barrelling into you isn't the norm. The pickup truck driver may not have been able to see the Tesla coming. Even if he did, he possibly couldn't tell and/or didn't expect it to be going that fast (given everyone else).

However, the unbelted child is a big no no. If wearing a seat belt, the child might have survived but still likely would have some pretty serious injuries.
Finally had a chance to look at the video. While definitely the Tesla was going faster than the traffic on the other two lanes, it looks like it was going the same speed as the car that was in the leftmost lane. And the differential didn't look big enough nor was the car obscured enough that the pickup wouldn't have been able to see the Tesla if it was looking (the pickup was in full view even before the video started and the pickup didn't start its lane change maneuver until about a second into the video). I commute regularly in California, and this type of speed differential is fairly common actually when there is traffic (it's definitely not safe, but there are plenty of unsafe drivers out there), so when changing from a slow moving lane, I tend to look fairly far back, because there may be a car that is blasting down at much higher speed.

That said, the Tesla definitely had plenty of time to slow down and let the pickup truck in.

It seems the last minute hesitation and braking by the pickup made things worse. If the pickup committed and followed the car in front of the Tesla, the damage likely would have been less. Yeah, the seat belt likely played a huge role, even in the scenario where the impact is less, without a seat belt, the risk of being thrown is still high.

Also just saw the statements by the "expert" the Times called in that said radar would have detected the truck and would have prevented the accident, and speculated that the radar data was not being used. Even putting aside this accident was in 2019 (when Tesla definitely was using radar), radar is well known for doing a poor job dealing with changing targets and things partially in the lane.
 
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