First person dies while using self-driving Tesla S on autopilot

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(Photo: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Tesla Model S (Photo: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

WILLISTON, Fla.— Federal officials say the driver of a Tesla Model S using the vehicle’s “autopilot” automated driving system has been killed in a collision with a truck, the first U.S. self-driving-car fatality.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says preliminary reports indicate the crash occurred when a tractor-trailer rig made a left turn in front of the Tesla at an intersection on a divided highway.

In a press release, Telsa explained the circumstances surrounding the crash:

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. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.

CEO Elon Musk commented on Twitter about the incident.

According to Tesla, the company first notified the NHTSA about the crash after it occurred.

NHTSA says the Tesla driver died due to injuries sustained in the crash, which took place on May 7 in Williston, Florida.

Records show the driver had eight speeding tickets in six years before he lost his life in the crash.

In the press release, Tesla said this is the first known fatality, and that the car’s autopilot has been used for more than 130 million miles. The press release adds that there is a fatal crash in the United States for every 94 million miles driven.

The company also made clear that autopilot is disabled upon sale, and the driver has to read a statement and “acknowledge that the system is a new technology and still in a public beta phase before it can be enabled.” When you enable autopilot, you are required “to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.”

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