First death in self-driving car reported by manufacturer

Published Fri, 01/07/2016 - 08:00

The first known death caused by a self-driving car has been disclosed by Tesla Motors. The crash occurred in Williston, Florida, on 7 May, after the driver, Joshua Brown, put his Model S into Tesla’s autopilot mode, which is able to control the car during highway driving. 

The car’s sensors system failed to distinguish a large white 18-wheel truck and trailer crossing the highway, Tesla said. The car attempted to drive full speed under the trailer, “with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S."

The car continued to travel after passing under the truck’s trailer, veered off the road, and then crashed through two fences and into a power pole, the local police report said. Brown died at the scene. 

Correspondents say the crash comes at a time when Americans have just started to become more comfortable with letting machines take the wheel. Tesla has generated enormous fanfare with its autopilot mode and inspired consumers – despite the company’s warnings – to see just how much they can do while letting the car drive.