A Florida judge found “reasonable evidence” that Tesla CEO Elon Musk and other managers were aware of a defective Autopilot system in its vehicles and still allowed the vehicles to be driven unsafely.
As detailed by Reuters, Judge Reid Scott ruled last week in the Circuit Court for Palm Beach County that a lawsuit over a fatal crash involving a Tesla vehicle and Autopilot could proceed to trial. The lawsuit stems from a 2019 crash in which a Model 3 drove under the trailer of an 18-wheeler big rig truck, shearing off the roof and killing the driver.
Scott found evidence that Tesla “engaged in a marketing strategy that painted the products as autonomous.” He also found that Musk’s public statements about Autopilot “had a significant effect on the belief about the capabilities of the products.”
Moreover, the judge said the accident was “eerily similar” to a 2016 crash where Autopilot failed to detect a crossing truck, resulting in the vehicle going underneath a tractor-trailer at high speeds.
“It would be reasonable to conclude that the Defendant Tesla through its CEO and engineers was acutely aware of the problem with the ‘Autopilot’ failing to detect cross traffic,” the judge wrote.
The ruling may come as a setback for Tesla, which won two product liability trials in California earlier this year.