A 20-year-old male from British Columbia has been charged with speeding and dangerous driving after he was arrested for sleeping behind the wheel of his Telsa while it was in “Autopilot” mode.  The incident occurred near Ponoka, Alberta.  When found by police, both the driver and passenger had reclined their seats into laying positions and were fast asleep while their autonomous self driving vehicle was traveling approximately 140 KMH.

In the US, the loss of control of an autonomous self driving vehicle has led to death on more than one occasion. As noted in the CNN article:

“…in 2018, Apple employee Walter Huang died when his car veered off a highway to the left, accelerated and crashed before bursting into flames. The Autopilot feature had been engaged for nearly 19 minutes, the NTSB found. His family announced last year they were suing Tesla, claiming the feature caused his death. At the time, Tesla said that the only way the vehicle could have crashed is if Huang had not “paid attention” to the road, “despite the car providing multiple warnings to do so.”

Holness and Small Law Group has taken an active approach in keeping up-to-date with autonomous self driving vehicle technology and advancements. Renn Holness, the founding Partner of our firm, is regularly consulted on the legality of autonomous self driving vehicles. In prior blog posts, we have noted that the law in Canada concerning autonomous self driving vehicles is still currently evolving and changing.  Safety standards and concerns must be addressed and properly regulated. Whether autonomous self driving vehicles rules and laws fall under civil, criminal, or both must be answered.  Insurance coverage and the liability of the car manufacturer or the driver or both in regards to motor vehicle accidents is still being investigated and grappled with by our law makers.  Furthermore, it has been reported that the software technology remains in the flux.

Due to the uncertainty of the technology and the law in Canada, it is advisable that drivers of autonomous self driving vehicles maintain control of their vehicles at all material times without autopilot. Failing to do so may result in civil lawsuits and criminal charges as the law evolves and becomes more certain.

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