First Autonomous Driving Fatality Confirmed: Tesla Crashes Into Semi

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has confirmed that that the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle has occurred in the U.S. following a Tesla Model S vs. semi truck crash.

Tesla’s Cameras Couldn’t Tell The Difference Between The Side Of Trailer And The Sky

The crash happened on May 7 at 3:40 p.m. on U.S. 27 in Williston, Florida. According to reports, the Tesla occupied by Joshua Brown, 40, was in self driving mode when a tractor trailer made a left turn in front of it. The Tesla’s cameras were reportedly unable to distinguish between the white side of the trailer and the sky, so it did not engage the brakes.

Brown, who was reportedly watching a Harry Potter movie at the time of the crash, also failed to brake. The Tesla was moving at a high rate of speed at the time of the crash. According to 62 year old truck driver Frank Baressi, “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him.” The top of the Tesla was sheared off by the collision as it went under the trailer.

Baressi said that the Telsa continued a quarter of a mile down the road, crashing through two fences and snapping a telephone pole. Baressi reported that he could still hear the Harry Potter movie playing after the Tesla finally came to a stop.

Brown was pronounced dead at the scene.

Baressi was not seriously hurt.

Tesla Driver Had Another Close Call With A Truck In April

On April 10, Brown uploaded a video to YouTube during which he says that Tesla’s Autopilot feature saved him from crashing into a boom lift truck.

NHTSA Has Launched An Investigation Into Autopilot Features

The NHTSA has opened an investigation into the crash. In a blog post, Tesla notes that the investigation is preliminary: “This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.

Sources:
The New York Times
Japonik
The Charlotte Observer
Tech Insider
The Levy Journal Online
Joshua Brown