Tesla is one of the coolest and most innovative companies currently operating in Silicon Valley. Their self-driving cars are one of the most anticipated tech industry breakthroughs in recent memory, but as the cars are still very much in the “testing” stage, so there are still many things that can go wrong. The Autopilot feature, while something that could make driving effortless many years down the road, is still not advanced enough for people to really let a car completely drive itself. Unfortunately, one driver died in a tragic accident while using Autopilot mode in a Tesla Model S.
A post on Tesla’s official blog and a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration report revealed that the first fatal Tesla Autopilot accident occurred when a semi-truck and a Model S collided in Florida. The truck drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S’ trajectory and when neither the Tesla’s driver nor the Autopilot feature applied the brakes, the car crashed into and went underneath the semi. According to Tesla founder Elon Musk, “the vehicle’s radar didn’t help in this case because it tunes out what looks like an overhead road sign to avoid false braking events.” Due to the truck’s sideways position, the car mistakenly assumed it was a large highway sign.
In the post, Tesla also mentions that Autopilot has been used for more than 130 million miles and that on average a fatal accident in the United States happens every 94 million miles. The NHTSA will be investigating Tesla’s Autopilot system in order to prevent further accidents, and the company has warned users that it is still only in a public beta phase and should not be completely relied on when operating a vehicle.