The US authorities are investigating a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S using Autopilot in May in which the driver was killed.
It seems Tesla reported the crash to the NHTSA and confirmed that the Autopilot system was active when the accident happened.
The crash happened on May 7 in Williston, Florida, when a tractor trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla on a divided highway, perpendicular to the car.
It appears neither the driver nor the Autopilot saw the white-sided trailer against a bright sky, and the Tesla went under the trailer – removing the roof of the car – before continuing on, leaving the road, hitting a fence, crossing a field and hitting a telegraph pole some 100 feet from the accident.
Tesla has issued a lengthy statement in which it extended its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the driver killed in the accident, Joshua Brown, and commented that the Autopilot function is not perfect and still requires the driver to be alert and ready to regain control at any point.
It’s the first fatal accident in over 130 million miles where Autopilot was active according to Tesla, but it will bring home to car buyers that autonomous driving technology is still very much in its infancy.
Just two months ago, a crash avoidance expert at Volvo called Tesla’s Autopilot ‘Dangerous’ as it gave the impression of being fully autonomous yet expected the driver to intervene without notice when required.
A comment which now seems very prescient.