We are told that autonomous driving technology is the next big advance in the motor industry and one day it will be. However a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S owner is being investigated in the US by the government agency responsible for vehicle safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Board. It is believed that the owner was using the vehicle’s built in semi-autonomous driving technology.
Tesla reported the details of the crash to the NHTSB and confirmed that the autopilot system was engaged when the accident happened.
The driver, Joshua Brown, was killed after his Model S was involved in a collision with a lorry. Brown had stated a few months prior via social media that the Autopilot system avoided a previous near-miss.
Tesla’s Autopilot system is able to change lanes, brake if another vehicle pulls out in front and also vary speed in accordance to the given traffic situation at that particular moment.
Such systems are not fool-proof, and for those who adopt the technology early will always be seen as an experiment by manufactures no matter how it’s marketed to buyers.
In a statement Tesla confirmed that the Model S involved in the fatal crash was unable to distinguish between the white side of the lorry and the bright sky.
Tesla also said that this particular incident was caused by a factor of rare occurrences. The NHTSB will begin preliminary investigations into the Autopilot system and software.
In such cases the NHTSB usually advise for a mass recall but could possibly call upon Tesla to perform an online update to the Autopilot software.
Tesla introduced the Autopilot functional late last year, Tesla explicitly says to owners that the driver “cannot abdicate responsibility” when the Autopilot system is in use.
Tesla has also added a range of default systems to monitor the driver to ensure both hands remain on the steering wheel.
Tesla’s share price fell by 3 percent upon news of the fatal crash.