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Tesla Driver Is First Person in U.S. to Face Felony Charges After a Fatal Crash Involving Autopilot

Approximately 765,000 Tesla vehicles in the U.S. are equipped with automated driving systems, which can control steering, speed and braking, but cannot yet safely replace human drivers entirely.

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A Tesla driver who was behind the wheel during a fatal crash in California in 2019 has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, AP News reports.

The Model S was in Autopilot when its driver, 27-year-old Kevin George Aziz Riad, ran a red light in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena and hit a Honda Civic, killing its occupants, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez. 

The criminal charges aren't the first involving an automated driving system, but they are the first to involve such a prevalent driver technology. Riad, who was driving for a limousine service at the time, appears to be the first to face felony charges in the U.S. for a deadly crash involving a partially automated driving system. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Related: Why is Elon Musk So Successful? It All Comes Down to These 5 Key Personality Traits

Approximately 765,000 Tesla vehicles in the U.S. are equipped with automated driving systems, which can control steering, speed and braking, but cannot yet safely replace human drivers entirely. Tesla has cautioned that neither Autopilot nor a more advanced "Full Self-Driving" system can drive itself without driver preparedness and intervention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are currently investigating numerous accidents involving Autopilot. 

In November, Tesla recalled more than 11,700 vehicles in response to a self-driving software error that could activate emergency breaks unexpectedly. The company released a free over-the-air software update to address the issue and sent letters to Tesla owners notifying them of the change. Since the Autopilot incidents began, Tesla has also introduced software updates to prevent misuse of the technology. 

Related: Elon Musk Says Tesla, Unlike Apple, Won't 'Bludgeon Competitors'

Per AP News, Tesla has disbanded its media-relations department and did not respond to requests for comment. 

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