— A Tesla Model 3 Autopilot lawsuit has been filed over the death of Jeremy Banner who was killed when his Model 3 crashed into a tractor-trailer on March 1, 2019, in Delray Beach, Florida.
The crash is currently under a federal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and investigators released a preliminary report that provided details of the incident.
Jeremy Banner, 50, was driving his 2018 Tesla Model 3 southbound on U.S. 441 in Delay Beach as a 2019 International tractor-trailer traveled east across the southbound lanes. The NTSB says the truck driver was trying to cross U.S. 441 and turn left into the northbound lanes, slowing as he crossed the southbound lanes.
Forward-facing video from the Model 3 showed the Tesla slammed into the left side of the trailer, shearing off the top of the car as it traveled under the trailer and continued south. The Model 3 came to rest on the median about 1,600 feet from where the car hit the trailer.
Data from the car showed the Autopilot system was engaged about 10 seconds before the crash, and from less than 8 seconds before impact Banner's hands were not detected on the steering wheel.
The car was traveling 68 mph in a 55 mph zone, and the data and onboard camera showed Banner nor the Model 3 did anything to avoid the tractor-trailer.
According to Tesla, Autopilot is a combination of systems meant to assist drivers in certain driving situations by the use of cameras, sensors and radar. Autopilot includes a feature called Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and another Tesla calls Autosteer, features that allegedly failed and caused Banner's death.
The lawsuit alleges Mr. Banner believed the advertising behind the 2018 Model 3, which said:
"[I]f you have purchased the optional Enhanced Autopilot or Full Self-Driving Capability Package, the forward looking cameras and the radar sensor are designed to determine when there is a vehicle in front of you in the same lane. If the area in front of Model 3 is clear, traffic-aware cruise control maintains a set driving speed. When a vehicle is detected, traffic-aware cruise control is designed to slow down Model 3 as needed to maintain a selected timed based distance from the vehicle in front, up to the set speed.”
Autosteer keeps the "Model 3 in its driving lane when cruising at a set speed. Auto Steer also allows you to use the turn signals to move Model 3 into an adjacent lane. Using the vehicle’s cameras, the radar sensor, and the ultrasonic sensors, auto steer detects lane markings and the presences of vehicles and objects for steering Model 3."
The family of Jeremy Banner say he believed the technology "would eliminate the risk of harm or injury to the vehicle operator caused by other vehicles or obstacles while driving on roadways and would prevent the vehicle from colliding with other obstacles/objects while in auto pilot mode."
But regardless of advertising, the 2018 Model 3 owner's manual references multiple warnings included in the Autopilot section that warn drivers about depending too much on Autopilot and its features.
"Warning: Traffic-Aware Cruise Control is designed for your driving comfort and convenience and is not a collision warning or avoidance system. It is your responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and be in control of the vehicle at all times. Never depend on Traffic-Aware Cruise Control to adequately slow down Model 3. Always watch the road in front of you and be prepared to take corrective action at all times. Failure to do so can result in serious injury or death."
"Warning: Autosteer is a hands-on feature. You must keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times."
The manual also warns a driver to keep their hands on the steering wheel because components of Autopilot can fail to function from numerous external sources. Just a few include bright sunlight, interference from other equipment that generates ultrasonic waves and extremely hot or cold temperatures.
According to the 2018 Tesla Model 3 owner's manual:
"Never depend on these components to keep you safe. It is the driver's responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and be in control of the vehicle at all times."
The Florida Tesla Model 3 Autopilot lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit for Palm Beach County Florida - Kim Banner, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Jeremy Banner, v. Tesla Inc., et al.
Family members of Jeremy Banner are represented by Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath.
Read about allegedly similar incidents involving Tesla's Autopilot:
- Driver of Model S Slams Into Disabled Car at 80 MPH, Sues Tesla
- Utah Woman Crashes While Reading Cell Phone, Sues Tesla
- Tesla Model S Owner in China Blames Autopilot for Collision
- Tesla Model X Autopilot Crash Causes Wrongful Death Lawsuit
- NTSB Investigates Alleged Tesla Model S Autopilot Crash
- NTSB Tesla Crash Investigation Blames 2 Drivers and the Model S