Elon Musk, Autopilot Critic Sought as Witnesses in Tesla Crash Trial

Musk speaks at a previous event. (John Raoux/Associated Press)

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The first trial to determine whether Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot technology led to a fatal car crash may require jurors to weigh testimony from founder Elon Musk against criticism of the driver-assistance system by Mary “Missy” Cummings, a U.S. government safety adviser.

The lawyers of the family of Jeremy Banner, 50, who died in 2019 when his Tesla Model 3 collided with a semi-trailer truck on a Florida highway, included Musk on a list of potential witnesses for the trial, set to start in January, court filings show. They also said the family hired Cummings, a Duke University professor and senior adviser to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Musk has been an unapologetic advocate for the Autopilot technology. He and thousands of Tesla fans and customers took to Twitter last month to protest the appointment of Cummings to the NHTSA job, including a petition calling for a review because of alleged bias against the company. CNN reported she received death threats.


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Tesla attorneys could push back against Musk appearing as a witness. They previously have persuaded the judge overseeing the trial to deny a request by Banner’s family to depose Musk during the evidence-gathering process before trial.

Tesla and attorneys for Tesla in the Banner case didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is Banner v. Tesla Inc., 50-2019-CA-0099662, Circuit Court of 15th Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County, Fla.

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