New details are now emerging regarding a highway incident involving the Tesla Model S and a tractor trailer, which resulted in the death of ex-Navy SEAL Joshua Brown. The Autopilot system had been engaged at the time of the crash.
The crash occurred along the U.S. 27A highway as the trailer tried to make a left turn in front of the Tesla. As it did, the car’s roof struck the underside of the trailer as it passed under it. Brown’s car then continued to smash into two fences and struck a power pole before stopping. Brown was pronounced dead at the scene.
Following the incident, Tesla said that neither Brown nor the Autopilot engaged the brakes, because both failed to notice the white side of the tractor trailer “against a brightly lit sky.”
According to a report from Tech Insider, Florida Highway Patrol found a portable DVD player inside the wreckage of Brown’s Tesla. Moreover, Frank Baressi, the driver of the truck, also told Associated Press that Brown was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” when the crash happened.
Moreover, he remarked, “He went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him.”
Meanwhile, Tesla noted that this is the first known fatality since its Autopilot system managed to log in 130 million miles. The company also released a statement following Browns’ death, saying, “The customer who died in this crash had a loving family and we are beyond saddened by their loss. He 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. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”
Nonetheless, as they addressed the death of Brown, Teslatook the time to remind everyone that even when the Autopilot is engaged, car owners must keep their hands on the wheel. In fact, Tesla said that their system does “frequent checks” to ensure that drivers’ hands remain at the wheel.
Following Brown’s death, many have taken to a public forum on Quora to weigh in on whether Tesla is to be blamed for Brown’s death. Ryan Vetter, CEO of Wundr, posted, “In the case of Tesla and autopilot, one way a vehicle manufacturer like Tesla could be held liable for instance, is through vicarious liability.
“Tesla’s response is one that mixes controlled PR with legal considerations.”
Meanwhile, Luis Argerich, a professor of Data Science at the University of Buenos Aires, said that Tesla should be blamed. He believes that in the case of the Autopilot, there is a “lack of full disclosure.”
Argerich explained, “If you are putting computer vision in a car, you should make clear that the algorithm can fail big time.” Moreover, the professor believes Tesla made a “misleading advertisement” about the car.
He pointed out, “Musk is using names such as ‘autopilot’ or ‘artificial intelligence’ to describe a bunch of sensors and algorithms. People not versed in computer science can think the car can drive himself or that the car is indeed intelligent. Disclaimers are very nice but we all know nobody cares about disclaimers.”
Florida Highway Traffic Patrol also revealed the airbags in Brown’s Tesla did not deploy during the crash. The investigation into Brown’s accident is still ongoing.