Sakshi Agrawal jailed after blaming Tesla’s autopilot for harrowing 2022 traffic incident

She made "a conscious decision to undertake a dangerous manoeuvre on the road.

In a case that has captivated Melbourne’s legal community, Sakshi Agrawal has been sentenced to nine months in prison following a harrowing 2022 traffic incident where she hit a nurse and then fled the scene.

The crash occurred as Nicole Lagos, a nurse, was attempting to board a tram on Wattletree Road in Armadale, an inner suburb of Melbourne.

Ms Agrawal, who initially blamed the autopilot feature of her Tesla for the accident, fought the dangerous driving charges for two years. She asserted that the vehicle was controlling itself at the time of the incident. However, before last month’s court hearing, she reversed her plea to guilty.

- Advertisement -

The case, presided over by Judge Peter Rozen, highlighted not just the misuse of vehicle technology but also the severe consequences of distracted driving.

Judge Rozen dismissed the defence that the autopilot was engaged, noting that Agrawal made “a conscious decision to undertake a dangerous manoeuvre on the road.”

The impact on Ms. Lagos has been devastating. She suffered permanent brain damage and spent several weeks in hospital and rehabilitation. In her victim impact statement, she expressed profound distress over her uncertain future, both professionally and personally.

The investigation into the crash revealed critical details that undermined Agrawal’s account. Police analysis showed that the Tesla’s autopilot was not active at the time of the crash, and Agrawal had not slowed down before hitting Ms Lagos. Immediately after the incident, instead of stopping, Agrawal accelerated to nearly 80 kilometres per hour and did not return to the scene for two hours.

Rather than seeking help or reporting the accident, she went home, contacted her partner, drank water, and changed her clothes. This delay in response and the initial falsehood about the autopilot feature significantly affected the case’s outcome.

Judge Rozen condemned Agrawal’s lack of immediate action post-crash, stating she failed to show “common decency” expected under the law and basic moral standards. However, he also recognised her panic at the time of the incident and acknowledged her counsel’s argument that her flight from the scene was not an act of self-protection but rather a panicked reaction.

- Advertisement -

Despite the seriousness of the offence, Judge Rozen noted Agrawal’s remorse and deemed her at a low risk of reoffending. At the time of the crime, Agrawal was 23 years old, a factor that the judge considered in assessing her potential for rehabilitation.

This case serves as a grim reminder of the responsibilities drivers bear, especially when technologies like autopilot are involved. Victoria’s road laws are explicit in requiring drivers to stop when a tram is boarding passengers, a regulation flouted by Agrawal with severe consequences.

As this case concludes, it leaves a stark message about the dangers of technological over-reliance and the critical importance of adhering to road safety laws to prevent such tragedies.

Support Our Journalism

Global Indian Diaspora needs fair, non-hyphenated, and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. The Australia Today – with exceptional reporters, columnists, and editors – is doing just that. Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America, or India you can take a paid subscription by clicking Patreon Buy an annual ‘The Australia Today Membership’ to support independent journalism and get special benefits