On June 30, Tesla revealed in a blog post that a driver of a Tesla Model S was killed in a crash while using the Autopilot mode. This is the first known fatality linked to a self-driving vehicle.
Tesla enthusiast Joshua Brown, 40, of Ohio, was traveling east on US 27 – a divided highway in central Florida – when a tractor trailer crossed the highway perpendicular to Brown’s direction of travel. Both the Autopilot system and Brown failed to apply the brakes before passing under the trailer of the big rig at a high speed. Upon impact, the roof of the Tesla Model S sedan was shorn off.
Brown was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to government records, the car’s cameras couldn’t detect the truck because the trailer’s white side blended in with the bright sky.
Tesla defended themselves by stating that Autopilot has been used for more than 130 million miles without serious incident. They also noted that the feature was in a “public beta phase,” and that drivers still assume foremost responsibility over the control of their vehicles.
Some self-driving vehicle experts believe Tesla released the Autopilot feature to the public prematurely. Most other automakers are still restricting tests to private, controlled settings and have said they will deploy only when they feel fully confident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is examining the design and performance of the Model S’s automated driving systems.