Elon Musk now faces serious liability associated with Tesla, its autopilot operating system, and a bevy of fatal accidents, one of them being an odd high-speed crash that was tragically fatal for an 18-year-old teen boy. That accident resulted in a lawsuit currently in the middle of trial in South Florida.
The Tesla at issue in the lawsuit reached 116 miles per hour before drifting off the road and into a wall. The tragedy occurred despite the fact that the boy’s father bought the Tesla with a speed limiter to prevent the vehicle from traveling faster than 85 miles per hour. According to Bloomberg, the evidence presented in the trial strongly suggests that Tesla removed the limiter without the father’s permission, or even notifying the father, who owned the car and specifically asked for the limiter.
Elon Musk told the father of a teenager who died in a Tesla Model S crash that the carmaker made a mistake in removing a speed limiter from the vehicle without the father’s permission, a lawyer for the family said in court.
Curtis Miner, the attorney, told a jury Thursday that the billionaire chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. made a “critical confession” when James Riley asked him in a May 2018 phone conversation how a device that was supposed to prevent the vehicle from going faster than 85 miles per hour was removed before 18-year-old Barrett Riley veered off a Florida road at 116 mph and hit a wall…
The article states that Musk admitted to the attorney, “Well, I guess we shouldn’t have taken that off,” and promised to review Tesla’s company policies. The admission could prove to be a major blow to the company. The Florida jury can obviously hammer Tesla if it believes that it caused the crash. But in the bigger picture, Tesla is now coming under a storm of lawsuits stemming from fatalities caused by the autopilot system itself, and Musk’s admission that policies needed to be reviewed could play a role in each trial (though no jury will be obligated to make the same finding):
The negligence case is the first for the world’s most valuable automaker over a fatal crash involving one of its vehicles. The electric car-maker faces a flurry of lawsuits over accidents blamed on its Autopilot driver-assistance feature that have also drawn increasing scrutiny from safety regulators.
If you are going to have autopilot, you better have statistics to show that more people die driving their own car than die in crashes on autopilot and it doesn’t sound as though Tesla has that evidence, which naturally leads one to ask, then why do they allow autopilot?
This could drive Tesla stock down that much further, much further. Tesla stock makes up the majority of Musk’s wealth and the share price has already been devastated by Musk’s Twitter tryst. Another withering blow and Musk could find himself in a position where he loses anywhere from one-half to two-thirds of his wealth over the course of a year and that is not counting the damage he’s going to sustain in the litigation mess over his near-dead Twitter offer.
It is difficult to point to a person who fell further, faster, than Musk over the last year, both in wealth and stature. This trial, and the jury’s specific findings, will play a major role in Tesla’s valuation in the immediate future.
Jason Miciak believes a day without learning is a day not lived. He is a political writer, features writer, author, and attorney. He is a Canadian-born dual citizen who spent his teen and college years in the Pacific Northwest and has since lived in seven states. He now enjoys life as a single dad of a young girl, writing from the beaches of the Gulf Coast. He loves crafting his flower pots, cooking, while also studying scientific philosophy, religion, and non-math principles behind quantum mechanics and cosmology. Please feel free to contact for speaking engagements or any concerns.
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