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Tesla Model S on Autopilot kills driver

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Josée Paquet

On May 7th, a Tesla Model S operating in Autopilot mode ended up killing its owner, Joshua D. Brown, and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now investigating the accident, Tesla announced. 

The electric sedan collided with a semi and passed under its trailer. It would be the first official death caused by Tesla’s autonomous driving technology.

The company said the NHTSA investigation is a preliminary inquiry to determine whether the system worked as expected. It claims the incident occurred because "neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the ... trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied."

According to the Associated Press, the driver of the truck saw Mr. Brown watching a movie on a portable DVD player just seconds before the crash. 

Tesla has stressed on multiple occasions that its Autopilot feature doesn’t make the Model S fully autonomous. Drivers still need to keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times.


Josée Paquet
Josée Paquet
Automotive expert