According to a recent article in The Washington Post (paywall), which was also reported by Electrek, as well as Reuters and other publications, a Tesla owner/driver has been charged with a felony after running a red light with Autopilot engaged, which caused a deadly crash, though it seems Autopilot isn't being blamed for the terrible situation.
This may mark the first time in history a driver has been charged with a felony while driving a car that caused an accident during which advanced driver-assistance features were likely activated. However, the prosecutors in the case don't mention Autopilot. The Washington Post shared via Electrek:
"The defendant appears 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."
The Tesla driver faces two counts of vehicular manslaughter for the accident that occurred a few years ago near Los Angeles. Interestingly, the crash happened in 2019, though the charges were just filed in October 2021. According to The Washington Post (via Electrek):
"California prosecutors have filed two counts of vehicular manslaughter against the driver of a Tesla on Autopilot who ran a red light, slammed into another car and killed two people in 2019."
The driver, 27-year-old Kevin George Aziz Riad, was driving a Tesla Model S on Autopilot when he proceeded through a red light and crashed into a Honda Civic. One person inside the Model S was taken to the hospital for minor injuries. However, both the Civic' occupants were killed in the crash: Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez.
The most interesting part of this very tragic story is that while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reportedly confirmed that Autopilot was in use in the Model S, the Tesla's semi-autonomous driving assistant isn't being mentioned by the prosecuting attorneys in the case. This is because it is always the driver's responsibility to safely pilot the vehicle.
If the prosecutors were to try to blame Autopilot, it would open a whole can of worms. If they won, the win would be against Tesla. However, it would potentially make it so that crashes in the future, which were the fault of a human driver not paying attention, could be blamed on the car. Any car's lane keep assist or automatic emergency braking features could fail at any time, which could easily cause an accident if the driver was not attentive.
Riad has pleaded not guilty and is out on bail for the time being. This is a developing story. When more details come to light, we'll update this article or provide a new one.