Speeding Driver in Tesla that Caused Fatal Accident Charged with Manslaughter

Kevin George Aziz Riad, whose Tesla Model S struck another car at a high speed in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena on December 29, 2019, killing two people, has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter by California prosecutors — reports MarketWatch.

In the crash, police said Riad’s Model S was moving at a high speed when it left a freeway, ran a red light in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena, and struck a Honda Civic at an intersection on Dec. 29, 2019.

Two occupants inside the civic, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, died at the scene. Riad and a female passenger in the Tesla were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

The charges against the 27-year-old limousine service driver were brought in October, but they hadn’t been made public until now. Riad is currently free on bail while the case awaits trial.

Documents released as part of the criminal charging procedure make no mention of Autopilot, Tesla’s suite of driver assistance features, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which sent investigators to the crash, confirmed last week that Autopilot was engaged in the Model S at the time of the crash.

Riad looks to be the first person to be charged with a felony in the United States for a fatal crash involving a motorist who was using a partially automated driving system.

However, this is not the first time the question of Autopilot versus user error has come up in a car crash involving a Tesla, or the first time mass media has pounced on the chance to spread fear, uncertainty, and misinformation about Tesla Autopilot and its safety.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in November closed an investigation into a fatal Tesla crash from August 2020 where Autopilot was engaged, concluding that the driver had manually overridden Autopilot moments before the crash. The NTSB in October also came to a similar conclusion about a fatal Tesla Model S crash in Texas.

Autopilot shares vehicle diagnostics and detailed usage statistics with Tesla, so it shouldn’t take long for an investigation to uncover exactly what happened during the crash. Drivers are told to keep both hands on the wheel and to be aware of surroundings when using Autopilot.

Admittedly, this is not the best time for Tesla to be making the news over its driver assistance technologies.

Just a couple of days ago, Green Hills Software CEO Dan O’Dowd took out a full-page ad in The New York Times attacking Tesla’s more advanced, autonomous driving software — Full Self-Driving (FSD), which is currently in beta. O’Dowd on Tuesday admitted to having a “financial interest” in criticizing FSD during an interview on CNBC.