Tesla driver who killed two people while on autopilot faces vehicular manslaughter charges

The driver apparently never touched the brakes in the minutes leading up to the crash

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published May 20, 2022 7:19PM (EDT)

Elon Musk | Tesla Factory (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Elon Musk | Tesla Factory (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

A Los Angeles County judge has found sufficient evidence to charge California resident, Kevin George Aziz Riad, with two counts of vehicular manslaughter for an accident that occurred while utilizing his Tesla's autopilot function.

According to information from the LAPD obtained by ABC, on December 29, 2019 Riad exited a freeway in Gardena, California while driving his partially automated Tesla Model S, ran a red light while going 74 mph and crashed into a Honda Civic. 

Gilberto Alcazar Lopez, the driver of the Civic, and his passenger Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez were on a first date at the time of the crash and both died as a result of their injuries.

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Evidence indicates that on the night of the accident, Riad was using his Tesla's Autosteer and the Traffic Aware Cruise Control was activated. A Tesla engineer called upon to provide panel analysis for the upcoming trial states that sensors within the car show that at the time of impact Riad only had one hand on the steering wheel, and did not even tap his brakes leading up to the crash.

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"Riad did nothing to stop the crash," says Prosecutor Brandy Chase in a quote given to The Orange County Register

Tesla engineer Eloy Rubio Blanco offered further insight on the functionality of the Tesla's autopilot saying that it only works properly if used by a "fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment ... The system will only work if torque sensors in a steering wheel detect that someone is at the wheel."

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By Kelly McClure

Kelly McClure is a journalist and fiction writer who lives in New Orleans. She is Salon's Nights and Weekends Editor covering daily news, politics and culture. Her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. She is the author of Something is Always Happening Somewhere.

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