Illinois motorists may be aware that several carmakers have vowed to introduce a fully autonomous vehicle within the next few years. This worries consumer advocates as several fatal accidents have occurred that involve vehicles equipped with autonomous systems. One such accident involving a Tesla Model S sedan equipped with the Palo Alto-based company’s Autopilot feature took place in Texas on April 17. According to initial reports, the two men killed in the crash were found in the sedan’s front passenger seat and rear seat.

Search warrants served

The accident is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. On April 19, a law enforcement official announced that search warrants had been obtained to gather electronic data from Tesla that could reveal whether or not the Autopilot feature was being used when the car failed to navigate a bend at high speed. The two men lost their lives when the car struck a tree and burst into flames after leaving the roadway. The warrants were obtained after Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on social media that the feature was not in use at the time of the crash.

Testing Autopilot

Witnesses are said to have told accident investigators that the men took the Tesla sedan out to test its Autopilot feature. Musk claims that this is not possible because the road where the accident occurred did not have lane markings. According to Musk, the Autopilot system only works when its cameras detect road markings. The Tesla CEO also tweeted about the safety benefits of the Autopilot feature just hours before the fatal crash.

Product liability lawsuits

Experienced personal injury attorneys usually file lawsuits against negligent drivers or their insurance providers when their clients have been harmed in motor vehicle accidents, but they could initiate another type of litigation against car manufacturers when the crash appears to have been caused by a defective product. Manufacturers owe consumers a duty of care to offer products that are safe and free of design or manufacturing defects, and attorneys could seek to hold them responsible when this duty is not met.

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