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Judge rules Tesla Autopilot fatal crash lawsuit can proceed to trial

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A Florida judge has ruled a jury should determine whether Tesla and Elon Musk overstated the capabilities of the company's Autopilot system.

The feature potentially led to the fatal accident of a software engineer, Jeremy Banner, in 2019. 

He took his hands off the steering wheel and crashed into a trucker seconds later.

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The decision by Circuit Judge Reid Scott refused Tesla's attempt to summarily dismiss a lawsuit filed by his widow, Kim Banner.

The ruling says there is a "genuine dispute" over whether Tesla "created a foreseeable zone of risk that posed a general threat of harm to others." 


The judge emphasized Tesla's marketing and Musk's Autopilot-related comments, citing other fatal crashes involving the system.

He ruled Kim Banner's attorneys presented sufficient evidence to allow the case to proceed to trial.

Read More: Tesla Wins First Autopilot Trial After Fatal Crash

Scott also permitted the pursuit of punitive damages, potentially reaching millions of dollars. 

Tesla insists its vehicles are not fully self-driving and that drivers must remain attentive.

"Autopilot" implied a greater degree of autonomy, lawyers say

However, Banner's attorneys argue that the use of the term "Autopilot" implied a greater degree of autonomy, contributing to Jeremy Banner's fatal crash. 

The lawsuit also references Musk's past statements about Autopilot's superiority over human drivers and its imminent autonomy.

Autopilot, designed to steer automatically and brake when engaged, has faced scrutiny and calls for increased safety measures.

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigated the crash, blamed the truck driver and Jeremy Banner.

The agency said an attentive driver could have taken evasive action. 

The NTSB also recommended additional safeguards for Autopilot, such as restricting its use on highways with cross-traffic and ensuring driver engagement.

The case is expected to proceed to trial next year.

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