A man whose Tesla was said to be on Autopilot when it allegedly crashed into a car and killed two people has been charged with vehicular manslaughter.
Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, is likely the first motorist to be accused of a felony in the United States after a fatal accident while using a partially automated driving system.
According to authorities, his 2016 Tesla Model S collided with a Honda Civic in Gardena, California, on Dec. 29, 2019, killing Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez.
A civil case which names Riad and Tesla Motors Inc as defendants alleges that the car was traveling at an “excessively high rate of speed” when it crashed.
Riad and a woman in the Tesla were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
Riad, a limousine service driver, was charged in October with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, but they came to light only last week, according to The Associated Press. His attorney and Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Riad has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is out on bail while the case is pending. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23.
The criminal charges aren’t the first involving an automated driving system, but they are the first to involve a widely-used driver technology. Authorities in Arizona filed a charge of negligent homicide in 2020 against a driver Uber had hired to take part in the testing of a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads. The Uber vehicle, an SUV with the human backup driver on board, struck and killed a pedestrian.
By contrast, Autopilot and other driver-assist systems are widely used on roads across the world. An estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles are equipped with it in the United States alone.