What Are Your Rights: Self-Driving Car Trial

Recorded on November 16, 2022

Tesla will be involved in an upcoming manslaughter trial for a deadly crash caused by a vehicle operating on autopilot. And the big question is: Who’s responsible? The driver or the car? Managing partner Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is on CBS6 to help explain in this week’s “What Are Your Rights?” segment.

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Announcer: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: Well, in this week’s “What are your rights?” segment, we are talking about self-driving cars. Tesla will be involved in an upcoming manslaughter trial for a deadly crash caused by a vehicle operating on autopilot. And the big question is, who’s responsible, the driver or the car? So, Paul Harding with Martin, Harding & Mazzotti is here right now to talk about all of this.

Paul: Yes.

Interviewer: So, first of all, can you explain what does the autopilot system do?

Paul: The future is here, right? So, yeah, what it does is everything, you know. It controls your speed, your direction, stopping and starting, and more importantly, you’re steering,

Interviewer: Right. Right. And that is when this comes into play here. So, what exactly happened during this accident that led to this trial?

Paul: Yeah. So, the autopilot is on, they’re in a Tesla. The driver’s not paying attention. He could have been sleeping, dozing, reading, texting, we don’t know. But he’s not looking straight ahead. The car goes through a red light, didn’t stop on its own, didn’t slow down, hit a car, killed two people. And now he has charges for manslaughter against him.

Interviewer: Yes. That was my next question. So, who exactly is on trial here?

Paul: Well, right now it’s him. And we know that Tesla is involved in a civil case, right? Because they’re gonna…you know, for money damages. But he is the one facing criminal charges. And his defense is gonna be, “Hey, I did what they told me to do. I read the manual. I watched the video. And now, why am I being held criminally liable for these events?”

Interviewer: Is it possible that moving forward Tesla could face criminal charges?

Paul: The Department of Justice is looking at that and, you know, they do. It’s always like, it’s a corporation. What do you do? You put everybody in, you know…So, I think that that’s being talked about. I don’t think that’s a reality. I think they’re gonna be held on the hook financially. And I think it’s gonna be a great defense for this individual who is being tried criminally.

Interviewer: As these cars are kind of the future. This does seem to be a pretty historic or monumental case, right?

Paul: Yeah. I think it’s delayed the future, right? Because everybody was kind of thinking that these trucks out west, for example, Amazon truck going cross country, no driver. Think about the cost savings. No driver, no worker’s comp, no hotel rooms, you know, and they can drive all night. And so, with cars, it was happening the same way. I think what it’s done is put the brakes on it, right? Because if someone says, “Well, if your technology breaks down, I go to jail.” I don’t think anybody’s resting in their Tesla.

Interviewer: Well, Paul, thank you so much for joining us and…

Paul: You’re welcome.

Interviewer: …breaking it all down for us.

Paul: Absolutely.

Interviewer: I appreciate it.

Paul: Yes. Sure.

Interviewer: Well, for more info covered in our weekly, “What are your rights?” segments, or to send us a story idea, just head to our website, cbs6albany.com.

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