Tesla driver killed in crash with Autopilot engaged

Tesla Model S Autopilot

The driver of a Tesla Model S was killed in a crash that occurred while the vehicle was in Autopilot mode, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA), which has opened an investigation.

The accident occurred on May 7 in Williston, Florida. The victim, Ohio resident Joshua Brown, is the first known fatality in more than 130 million miles of Autopilot driving, and in all probability the first death resulting from a crash involving any self-driving car.

In a blog post, Tesla said that it informed NHTSA about the incident immediately after it occurred.

“Preliminary reports indicate the vehicle crash occurred when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla at an intersection on a non-controlled access highway,” the agency said, noting that the opening of an investigation does not mean it believes there is any defect in the vehicle.

Tesla’s post provided more details:

What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S. Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents.

The customer who died in this crash had a loving family and we are beyond saddened by their loss. He was a friend to Tesla and the broader EV community, a person who spent his life focused on innovation and the promise of technology and who believed strongly in Tesla’s mission.

The local Levy County Journal reported that charges are pending (presumably against the truck driver, who was uninjured).

As planned, NHTSA will release a new set of guidelines and regulations regarding the testing of self-driving vehicles on public roads in July.


Source: Tesla, New York Times, Bloomberg, Levy County Journal

  • Jim Fox

    WHY do all trucks NOT have heavy gauge guard rails all round?

    • Pat Campbell

      I can speak for trucks mounted with well drilling rigs. They would get high centered.

      • Jim Fox

        Tiny percentage of trucks, then. I meant low-mounted rails to prevent vehicles sliding under them, as happened with the Tesla– and thousands of similar accidents.

  • David Peterson

    In Europe they are required to have under trailer guard rails.

    • DroneAlone

      They call it an EV catcher David.

      In all seriousness, I’m happy you’re alive. When I heard about this accident I thought it might be you, and felt bad about giving you a rough time about your city car…

  • http://www.adomanielectric.com Edward

    Sensors work different in humidity and rain. Tesla and other manufactures should have known this. Florida would be one of the most dangerous places to use this technology during love bug season and rain season. Humidity can also affect the micro chips and boards as well.

    • Ozzie Perch

      All your electronic issues are not found in automotive devices…specs are nearly same as military equipment.

  • Electric Bill

    Just now, some political imbecile… I, did not catch his, name or whether he was a senator, Governor or what… is calling for a moratorium on self-driving.

    1.: the accident was caused by the truck driver, not the Tesla or, Mr. Brown.

    2.: regardless of the outcome of this terrible accident, self-driving cars are still safer than humans.

    3. I don’t remember the exact ststs, but self-driving Teslas have amassed millions of combined miles of testing.

    This reminds me of the huge attention put on the Tesla car fires, which number less than a dozen and resulted in no fatalities or even injuries. They also are far, far less frequent than the car fires that kill close to 400 people here in the US annually, and are far less extreme–they have all started out small, taking minutes to get going, providing time for occupants to extract themselves before being burned.

    These reactions are totally out of proportion only because people unfamiliar with EVs are responding ineptly to new tech for which they have no personal experience… These nutty reactions are never by EV owners and drivers. With time, they will mature.