The Tesla Model 3 that was traveling 70 mph on Autopilot and crashed into the back of a Ford Explorer pickup truck on a California freeway in August 2019 did not slow down until a fraction of a second before the fatal collision, according to video and data obtained from Tesla by Attorney Benjamin Swanson of The Swanson Law Group.

Jovani Maldonado, 15, who was in the front passenger seat of the Ford pickup being driven by his father Benjamin, died after he was thrown from the truck during the crash. Benjamin Maldonado and his wife, Adriana Garcia, have filed a lawsuit against Tesla claiming the car manufacturer’s Autopilot system failed to react properly to traffic conditions. The lawsuit also names as defendants the driver of the Tesla, Romeo Lagman Yalung, and his wife Vilma, who owns the car.

The heartbreaking story has garnered national media coverage, including an article that was recently published in the New York Times.

“Jovani Maldonado wanted to be a professional soccer player so he could provide for his loved ones and someday buy his parents a house, but instead his life was cut short,” Attorney Swanson said. “Tesla claims their self-driving cars are safer than human drivers, but clearly this technology did not work as claimed since neither the Autopilot system nor the driver reacted appropriately. Now, a young man with his whole life ahead of him is gone and his family is left with a massive hole — all because an irresponsible company’s failed experiment with driverless cars.”

A 6-second video of the tragic crash shows that neither Tesla’s Autopilot system nor Yalung slowed the vehicle down in time to avoid the deadly impact with the Ford pickup. Four seconds before the fatal collision, Benjamin Maldonado had activated the pickup truck’s turn signal to change lanes. The blinker flashed four times while the pickup was in its original lane and a fifth time as the truck was straddling lanes.


According to court documents, Benjamin Maldonado noticed the Tesla approaching rapidly in his rearview mirror and had tried to swerve back into his original lane to avoid the crash. Video and data from the Model 3 show the Tesla maintaining a speed of 69 mph and then increasing its speed briefly to 70 mph before slowing down in the final second before impact.

Tesla’s Autopilot feature uses software, cameras, and sensors that are designed to assist drivers and prevent crashes by letting the system take over different aspects of driving a car, such as accelerating, slowing down, and changing lanes. Tesla’s Autopilot technology is far from perfect, as the system’s cameras can be negatively impacted by glare from the sun and the computer software can make mistakes when sensing what’s in the road ahead.

Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating over 20 crashes involving the use of Autopilot. Since 2016, at least three Tesla drivers were killed while using the Autopilot feature as a result of the system failing to detect obstacles in the road; 10 others have died in eight accidents involving Autopilot, not including Jovani Maldonado.

“Tesla can defend its technology and blame others all it wants, but it’s clear the Autopilot system lacks the right safeguards to prevent catastrophic crashes like the one that contributed to Jovani Maldonado’s death,” Swanson said. “Tesla needs to answer for its negligence. While nothing will erase the pain of losing a child, we’re confident this lawsuit will deliver justice to the Maldonado family and hold Tesla accountable for putting cars out on the road that come with inherently dangerous and flawed technology.”

About The Swanson Law Group

The Swanson Law Group is a personal injury law firm based in California with offices in San Jose, Westlake Village, Canoga Park, and Houston, TX. Founded in 2010 by Attorney Benjamin Swanson, the law firm has recovered over $100 million for clients and takes pride in helping people find their path forward following an injury.

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