However strongly automakers advise their customers, there are just times when the inevitable happens. Just earlier this month, the first fatality to have occurred in over 130 miles of autonomous driving was recorded. This is the first recorded person to have died while driving a semi-autonomous car, a grim milestone and a constant reminder to practice safe driving.
The accident happened outside Williston, Florida after the victim, Ohio resident Joshua Brown, crashed into a semi-truck. The victim was driving his Tesla Model S on semi-autonomous Autopilot when he crashed into the semi-truck coming from the opposite direction and died on the spot.
Reports say that in an attempt to avoid the incoming collision with the Model S, the -truck made a left turn but the sensors on the Model S were not able to recognize the tall edge of the truck. Tesla admitted that the sensors were blinded by the lighting in the area and thus was not able to detect the edge of the truck. Brown failed to step on the brakes and so the car went on to drive underneath the trailer, ripped off its top end, continued rolling, and eventually smashed through two fences. It hit a power post first before rotating counter clockwise and eventually coming to a stop. It really was a freak accident that looks like it came out of a Final Destination movie.
This is not the first time that the sensors on the Model S didn’t work. They have already malfunctioned in an auto-parking accident in May which fortunately happened only at low speeds with no one inside the car. This recent accident ended in a tragedy because human life and significant speeds were involved.
Apparently, in a recent discovery following the accident, it has been found out that the tragedy might have also been due to human error. In a statement released by Frank Baressi, the truck driver, he reportedly heard “Harry Potter” playing in the car that Brown was driving. He says that he couldn’t actually see the movie being played but his statement may be backed up after authorities from the Florida Highway Patrol who recovered a portable DVD player on the wreckage.
It is too early to rule that the accident might have happened due to driver negligence but it should also be noted that watching a movie while driving (even a semi-autonomous car) may lead to accidents such as this. It is an unfortunate event but everyone must learn from this – drivers and automakers alike.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason why we should not rely heavily on the technologies installed in our vehicles, especially the autopilot systems. It is still within the driver’s discretion to practice safe driving and to be at all times focused on the road to ensure safety for all of the passengers (and drivers).