Tesla Model S Driver Killed in Crash While Using Its ‘Autopilot’  

The much hyped self-driving mode on the Model S has resulted in first ever casualty.

Car and Bike
2 min read
Tesla is currently looking into the incident. (Photo: AP)

The first person to die in a US crash involving a car in self-driving mode was the tech-savvy 40-year-old owner of a Tesla Model S who nicknamed his car “Tessy” and praised its sophisticated “Autopilot” system.

Joshua D Brown, of Canton, Ohio, died in the 7 May crash in Williston, Florida, when his car’s cameras failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer rig from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes, according to government records and a Tesla statement issued Thursday.

Brown, who owned a technology company, just one month earlier credited his 2015 Tesla with preventing a crash on an interstate highway. The government said it is investigating the design and performance of the Tesla system.

Frank Baressi, 62, the driver of the tractor-trailer and owner of Okemah Express LLC, said the Tesla driver was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” and driving so quickly that “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him”.

However, Tesla Motors Inc. said it is not possible to watch videos on the Model S touch screen.

Tesla noted that drivers must manually enable the Autopilot system: “Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert.”

As The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) opened an investigation, Tesla founder Elon Musk expressed condolences.

Tesla claims that this was the first-known death in over 130 million miles of Autopilot operation. Drivers are told they must be prepared to take over controls, the statement said.

Autopilot checks to make sure a driver’s hands are on the wheel, and it gives visual and audible alerts if they aren’t. It also will gradually slow the car until the driver responds, the statement said.

Tesla said Autopilot “results in a statistically significant improvement in safety”.

Harley said that more deaths can be expected as the autonomous technology is refined.

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