In the realm of electric vehicles, Tesla remains a name synonymous with innovation and controversy. As the brand delves into autonomous driving, a recent court trial puts its “Full Self-Driving” feature under scrutiny.
The Incident and the Allegations
A tragic 2019 crash involving Tesla’s Model 3 led to the death of owner Micah Lee and left two passengers seriously injured. The heart of the lawsuit, originating from a California state court, asserts that Tesla’s Autopilot system was the cause of this unfortunate event.
The car, reportedly moving at 65 mph, went off track and collided with a palm tree before catching fire. The claimants argue that Tesla had prior knowledge about the potential flaws in the Autopilot and other safety mechanisms when the car was sold.
However, Tesla refutes these allegations, emphasizing the uncertainty surrounding whether Autopilot was even active during the crash.
Behind Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” Feature
Eloy Rubio Blanco, a Tesla engineer, took the stand to shed light on the specifics of the “full self-driving capability package,” which Lee had purchased for his Model 3. In 2019, this package offered functionalities like lane maintenance and keeping a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. Over time, Tesla incorporated even more advanced features.
A pivotal moment during Blanco’s testimony was his rejection of the assertion that the term “Full Self-Driving” was chosen with the intention of misleading the public into assuming the cars had broader capabilities than they did.
Blanco clarified, “Do I think our drivers think that our vehicles are autonomous? No,” according to Reuters. Yet, he did admit that the 2019 Tesla vehicles might possess “latent defects” due to software complexities. Blanco emphasized the system’s limitations, stressing that drivers should intervene when necessary.
Trade Secrets and the Court’s Decision
Tesla made an attempt to keep Blanco’s testimony confidential, citing trade secrets. However, the judge dismissed this plea, though choosing to halt the court’s live audio feed during his testimony.
The case serves as a reminder of the challenges faced in the race to perfect autonomous driving. As Tesla continues to champion its Full Self-Driving system, events like these underscore the importance of transparent communication and continuous refinement in the ever-evolving world of EVs.
Photo courtesy of Tesla.