SAN LORENZO, Calif. - Once again, electric car pioneer Tesla Motors finds itself in a controversy over the self-driving capabilities of its cars and the veracity of its founder, Elon Musk.
In dashcam video that was obtained by the New York Times, 15-year-old Jovani Maldonado of San Lorenzo, died on a Bay Area freeway after a Tesla rear-ended his father's pickup truck. Neither Tesla's much self-bragged about autopilot system nor the driver tried slowing down until a split second before ramming the SUV.
Jovani's family is now suing the automaker and retained accident attorney Benjamin Swanson to represent them. The suit is just one of several auto-pilot lawsuits Tesla has been hit with.
"I do not know of any cases, involving a fatality, that have come to a decision at this point," said New York Times automotive reporter Neal Boudette, who has followed Tesla's autonomous driving efforts for years. "Elon Musk is the only one who's predicting, time after time, that we're just around the corner or six months away."
A year ago, the Tesla CEO said this: "I'm extremely confident that Level 5, or essentially autonomy, will happen and I think it will happen very quickly."
Last December, Musk said he will be delivering fully autonomous cars to Tesla customers in 2021.
"I think there are no fundamental challenges remaining for Level 5 autonomy," he said.
The Society of Automotive Engineers says Level 5 autonomous vehicles need no human attention. without steering wheels, without accelerator pedals, without braking pedals, and can do anything experienced drivers can do.
But some experts say we're not there yet.
Duke University Engineering professor and former fighter pilot, Mary Cummings, said auto-pilot features and self-driving vehicles are proven dangerous.
Cummings, a renowned autonomous vehicle expert, said, "When you hear 'full self-driving' you think, indeed, your car can drive itself and then you let it do that."
Cummings believes it will be decades until the world is ready for self-driving vehicles.
The Federal Government says, not including Jovani, 10 other people have been killed in autopilot-involved crashes.