Is it back to the drawing board for the engineers of Tesla? The company's self-driving technology has claimed its first victim. Tesla driver Joshua Brown, 40, has died in an accident caused by the self-driving technology inside the Model S. The car's self-driving technology was reportedly unable to recognise a white tractor trailer against "the brightly lit sky".
The technology that drives Model S cars is Tesla's own 'Autopilot' software.
"What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S," Tesla said in a statement. "It is important to note that Tesla disables Autopilot by default and requires explicit acknowledgement that the system is new technology and still in a public beta phase before it can be enabled."
Therefore, Brown knowingly put his life in danger once he had agreed to be part of the beta testing for the car. He also uploaded a video on YouTube showing the capabilities of the Autopilot feature. The video is unrelated to the crash. In the video, you can see the Autopilot feature physically dodging an oncoming truck that is merging into its lane:
"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 the promise of technology and who believed strongly in Tesla's mission," Tesla added.
The crash comes at a time when automakers are reaching out to governments to show them that self-driving technology is the future. The crash will most likely be a reference point for critics who think self-driving technology is not ready for consumers. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating the Tesla crash. The group has said that in their initial reports, the car failed to apply the break due to the failure of the software to identify the white side of the tractor trailer.
The New York Times spoke to Karl Brauer, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book auto research. He said: "This is a bit of a wake-up call. People who were maybe too aggressive in taking the position that we're almost there, this technology is going to be in the market very soon, maybe need to reassess that."