NHTSA is looking into the first fatality from Tesla’s AutoPilot

Technology presumably exists to make our lives easier and more advanced, for instance, the prospect of autonomous driving vehicles and the push to develop those systems in hopes to make drivers obsolete.

Tesla Motors was one of the first manufacturers to make autonomous driving capabilities readily available, albeit on their expensive Model S sedans. It’s proven itself to work extremely well and be very safe. You’d also assume so given how much technology and computing is needed to make it all happen.

But that’s the issue: at the end of the day, they’re still computer ran, and if you knew anything about computers, given how we’re pretty much all surrounded by them everywhere you go, these things called glitches and crashes happen. And like everything else, they’re prone to failure.

In this case, Tesla’s Autopilot apparently experienced its first major failure, leading to its first related death. This ultimately set off the central alarm at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who are investigating the accident.

According to various reports gathered for Tesla’s official statement, the crash involved a 2015 Tesla Model S being driven on a divided two-lane highway. Autopilot was engaged when a rogue semi-trailer traveling in the other direction accidentally veered into the oncoming lane where the said Tesla on Autopilot was driving.

Tesla’s safety systems failed to sense the white truck against a “brightly lit sky” and thus didn’t engage the brakes or alert the driver. The ending result was that the Model S crashed into the rear of the truck supposedly when the truck tried to veer back into its lane. The collision claimed the life of the driver.

According to Tesla’s initial investigation, the car’s data report said neither the car nor the driver actuated any emergency evasive maneuvers.

This ultimately comes down to being Tesla’s first confirmed death from the use of Autopilot, following 130 million incident-free autonomous miles traveled worldwide. In the US, 94 million of those miles make up the 130 worldly total.

That’s still a pretty impressive safety record, all things considered for such advanced and new technology.

Despite the Autopilot capabilities, Tesla Motors, and even Elon Musk himself, emphasized that Autopilot is there to enhance the driving experience and drivers should still pay attention to the road ahead of them while being able to anticipate and react to emergency maneuvers when the car itself gets confused.

For Tesla’s official statement, check it out here.

– By: Chris Chin


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