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Government report provides no definitive conclusion about cause of Tesla accident

Readers are aware that automatic driving technology is becoming an increasingly prevalent reality in newer vehicle models, and that there is a great deal of hope that more vehicle automation will translate into a reduction in motor vehicle accidents. 

That may be true, but there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered regarding liability. Foremost among them is determining who is liable for an accident involving a vehicle that was being driven by automation. 

A motor vehicle accident that occurred last year in Florida raises this issue. The accident, which involved an Ohio resident, garnered a lot of media attention because the vehicle the man was driving was a Tesla Model S, which is equipped with Autopilot, Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board released a crash investigation report providing numerous details about the crash.

Earlier this year, this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report of its own investigation of the accident, which found no defects with the semi-autonomous driving system. The recent NTSB report did not contradict the NHTSA report, but neither did it provide any conclusions about exactly what caused the accident. One detail it did provided was that the man driving the Model S ignored a total of seven separate visual warnings and six audible warnings from the Autopilot system.

It isn’t clear exactly what conclusions can be drawn about the accident given the reports that have been released, but the question of who is liable for the accident is definitely at play. In our next post, we’ll look at the issue of what value government reports can have in product liability litigation, and the limitations on using these reports in court. 

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