National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration) revealed that a Tesla Model S electric car crashed while driving in “autopilot” mode, killing the driver, and a formal investigation into the case has been opened.
The crash, which occurred on May 7, should be the first fatal accident involving a self-driving car.
The crash sparked a debate in the U.S. over self-driving cars and whether the technology is reliable in a life-or-death situation.
In a statement, the U.S. Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it learned of the death from Tesla and had dispatched an investigative team to investigate the vehicle and the crash scene. The crash occurred in Williston, Florida, about 100 miles northwest of Orlando. The investigation team is examining the car’s self-driving system and its role in the crash.
The U.S. Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not disclose the identity of the Tesla driver. A large truck turned in front of the Tesla at the time of the crash. However, the Florida Highway Patrol said the deceased was Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio.
Tesla did not name the driver in the press release, saying only that he had “dedicated his life to innovation and technological development with a firm belief in Tesla’s mission.”
The U.S. Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was investigating Brown’s death with the Florida Highway Patrol. The agency is careful to say that opening an investigation does not mean it believes the vehicles under inspection are themselves defective.
The U.S. Highway Traffic Safety Administration is preparing to issue a new set of guidelines and regulations for testing self-driving vehicles on public roads. These are expected to be made public in July.
In a statement on Thursday, Tesla cautioned that the feature is still in beta and “requires direct confirmation that this system is new technology.”
The article states that when the driver activates the autopilot system, a confirmation box pops up, indicating that the autopilot mode “is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.”