Driver must stand trial for deadly Tesla crash in California

(AP) — The driver of a Tesla operating on autopilot must stand trial for a crash that killed two people in a Los Angeles suburb, a judge ruled Thursday.

There is enough evidence to try Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, on two counts of vehicular manslaughter, a Los Angeles County judge said.

A judge ruled Thursday that a trial can proceed against a Tesla Model S driver in a 2019 crash that left two people dead in Gardena.

It is believed to be the first felony prosecution in the U.S. against a driver using a partially automated driving system.

Police said the Tesla Model S left a freeway and ran a red light in Gardena and was doing 74 mph (119 kph) when it smashed into a Honda Civic at an intersection on Dec. 29, 2019.

The crash killed Gilberto Alcazar Lopez, 40, of Rancho Dominguez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, 39, of Lynwood, who were in the Civic and were on their first date that night, relatives told the Orange County Register.

Riad and a woman in the Tesla were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Prosecutors said the Tesla’s Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control were active. A Tesla engineer testified that sensors indicated Riad had a hand on the steering wheel but crash data showed no brakes were applied in the six minutes before the crash.

A police officer testified Thursday that several traffic signs warning motorists to slow down were posted near the end of the freeway.

Tesla has said that Autopilot and a more sophisticated “Full Self-Driving” system cannot drive themselves and that drivers must pay attention and be ready to react at anytime.

The misuse of Autopilot, which can control steering, speed and braking, has occurred on numerous occasions and is the subject of investigations by two federal agencies. The filing of charges in the California crash could serve notice to drivers who use systems like Autopilot that they cannot rely on them to control vehicles.

The criminal charges aren’t the first involving an automated driving system, but they are the first to involve a widely used driver technology. Authorities in Arizona filed a charge of negligent homicide in 2020 against a driver Uber had hired to take part in the testing of a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads. The Uber vehicle, an SUV with the human backup driver on board, struck and killed a pedestrian.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday confirmed that it had sent a special crash investigation team to determine whether a Tesla involved in a May 12 crash in Newport Beach that killed three people was operating on a partially automated driving system.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer tests positive for Covid a second time

Mayor Jerry Dyer has tested positive for Covid-19 for a second time.

On Friday morning, Dyer posted to his Twitter page that he took two rapid at-home tests after experiencing cold-like symptoms on Thursday night.

“Unfortunately, both were positive. I have cancelled all appointments and events for the next few days. In the meantime, I intend to telework as there is much to do in advance of budget roll-out. At this time, I have very mild symptoms, but will continue following City of Fresno health protocols. Thank you for your understanding.” 

In November 2020, as mayor-elect, Dyer tested positive for Covid-19 after attending an event hosted by Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau, who also tested positive a few days after the event.

On Thursday, Dyer held a press conference at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo to announce the expansion of a program to give $10,000 free tickets to community youths and their families. Photos from the event show him unmasked near community leaders including Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy, Brandau, Fresno City Council President Nelson Esparza, Fresno Center CEO Pao Yang and more.

He also attended a ribbon cutting Thursday for a new health clinic at Kings Canyon Road and Minnewawa Avenue in Fresno with Councilmember Luis Chavez and executives with United Health Centers.

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