Autopilot Feature Likely Not at Fault in Tesla Model S Fatal Crash
NEWS ANALYSIS: The fatal collision between a Tesla Model S and a tractor-trailer in Florida was probably due to mistakes by both drivers, but not the vehicle and its software.The fatal collision between a Tesla Model S operating in its Autopilot mode and a tractor-trailer hauling blueberries on a Florida highway was due to a series of errors, which is the case in many if not most serious traffic accidents. Now, as federal investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and from Tesla work to sort out the chain of mistakes that led to the May 7 crash that killed the driver of the Tesla Model S, some facts have become clear. Those facts point to driver error, but at this point, there's no indication that the Autopilot software on the Tesla was responsible for the accident. This means that the dire predictions by some in the (non-technology) media that the accident would mean the end of autonomous vehicles are wrong. But if the self-driving functions of the Tesla weren't at fault, then what was? The short answer is that the drivers of both vehicles apparently did things that contributed to the accident's cause. The truck driver made an improper left turn and the driver of the Tesla apparently wasn't paying as close attention as he should have.
The accident happened like this: The Tesla was heading east on U.S. Route 27, a four-lane divided highway in Williston, Fla. The truck was heading in the opposite direction, on the other side of the highway. The driver of the truck made a left turn into the path of the Tesla, which collided with the trailer. The Tesla's roof was sheared off and the rest of the car continued off the highway until it hit a power pole. The New York Times published a clear diagram of the accident.