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Tesla’s Model S autopilot under investigation following a fatal crash

Following what is believe to be the first fatality in a vehicle in self-driving mode, Tesla has confirmed that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a preliminary evaluation on the company’s autopilot,  a feature that enables the car to automatically speed and slow based on traffic and speed limit as well as steering itself around corners in limited circumstances. Tesla’s Model S sedan and Model SUV have both been fitted with this feature, which in most instances works remarkably well though it is far from perfect. Tesla indeed advises drivers to maintain control and responsibility for their vehicle, when enabling the optional feature.

Tesla on Thursday confirmed that the crash happened when a tractor trailer crossed the highway ahead of the car. Disturbingly, neither the driver nor the autopilot system identified the trailer and applied the brakes. Tesla did not name the customer who died during the incident, though they noted that he was a ‘friend to Tesla. According to FORBES following confirmation from The coroner’s office in Levy County, FL, the victim was Joshua Brown, a 40-year man from Canton, OH. Brown had been a frequent user of Tesla Autopilot feature and had filmed and posted many videos on his personal YouTube page. He had gotten nearly 2 million views.

According to Dan Galves, Mobileye’s Chief Communications Officer, an Israel technology company that helped create the autopilot feature, he noted that the current generation of technology is not equipped to deal with the particular scenario that played out in May 7th collision though plans are underway to introduce it. Mobileye systems are expected to have Lateral Turn across Path detection capabilities beginning 2018 and Euro NCAP safety rating starting 2020.

Tesla indicated that the Autopilot in Model S and X had covered 130 million, whereas on average there is a fatality every 94 million miles in America and 60 million miles globally. Even so, the fatal crash will put a spotlight on the auto industry’s push to gives cars the ability to drive themselves. Companies including Google, Apple, General Motor, and Ford are currently testing self-driving cars, but so far there has been limited regulations of the technology.

Featured Image Credit:Forbes

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