The family of a 15-year-old killed in a car crash with a Tesla on Autopilot is suing the company

The family of a 15-year-old killed in a car crash with a Tesla on Autopilot is suing the company
Tesla Model 3. Tesla
  • The family of a 15-year-old killed in a car crash involving a Tesla on Autopilot is suing the company.
  • The suit says Tesla's Autopilot is defective and failed to detect traffic conditions.
  • Tesla's Autopilot has come under intense scrutiny this year following a fatal crash in April.

The family of a 15-year-old boy who died in a car crash in 2019 are suing Tesla, saying the company's Autopilot system played a key role in the collision.

According to the complaint, Jovani Maldonado was riding with his father, Benjamin, in August 2019 when their car was struck by a Tesla. Jovani wasn't wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle.

Data from the crash showed the car had its Autopilot feature enabled when it struck the Maldonados' car. The data also showed that in the seconds before the crash the Tesla briefly accelerated before braking.

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The Maldonados' lawyer, Benjamin Swanson, shared both data and video from the Tesla with the New York Times.

Tesla's Autopilot software does not make the car fully self-driving, although one mode is named "Full Self-Driving." Drivers are meant to maintain control of the vehicle and keep their hands on the steering wheel per Tesla's instructions.


But the Maldonados' case against Tesla says that the company's marketing of the feature encourages misuse, that there are defects in the software, and that it failed to react to traffic conditions. The suit also names the driver of the Tesla as a defendant.

Read more: A judge ordered Tesla to turn over documents related to Elon Musk's $55 billion compensation plan. Here's how the elaborate pay agreement works.

Lawyers for Tesla contest the argument that the company was "driving" the vehicle via its software ahead of the accident, and say that the facts do not support a legal action against the company on that basis.

Emails sent from one of Tesla's lawyers said, "The police faulted the Tesla driver - not the car - for his inattention and his driving at an unsafe speed."

The company's court filings said other claims, including product liability, would be defended on the facts.


Tesla did not respond to the Times' request for comment, and did not immediately reply when contacted by Insider for comment.

This isn't the first time Tesla has come under fire for the safety of its autopilot feature. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced in June it's investigating the role of Tesla's Autopilot in 30 crashes that have killed 10 people since 2016.

A deadly car crash in Texas in April drew lawmakers to question the safety of the system, as local law enforcement said neither of the two men killed in the crash had been sitting in the driver's seat. CEO Elon Musk said the car had not been on Autopilot at the time of the crash.