The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it will investigate what role Tesla’s autopilot feature had in a fatal crash in 2015. The agency said the crash “calls for an examination of the design and performance of any driving aids in use at the time of the crash”.
In a statement, Tesla said that this crash was “the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated”. Tesla explained the crash, blaming a “brightly lit sky”. The statement adds:
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 person involved in the crash was Joshua Brown, who according to Tesla 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”.