Whether you like it or not, self-driving cars are here. Tests have shown that self-driving cars are safer than human drivers, while others argue the opposite. Which ever side of the fence you fall, there's evidence to support both claims.
While there have been accidents, an overwhelming majority were caused by human error, but now, we're starting to see cases of the opposite. Google's self-driving cars were to blame in an accident on February 23 and now, we can add Tesla to that list.
Joshua Brown's Tesla Model S, "Tessie" as he called it, was in autopilot on the highway in Florida when he crashed into the back of an 18-wheeled semi truck. It's undocumented how fast Brown was driving, however, his friends described Brown as having "a need for speed" and "kind of a daredevil." Further investigations revealed that Brown had eight speeding tickets on his record.
Frank Baressi, the driver of the 18-wheeler, said "He went so fast through my trailer I didn't see him." Baressi also told authorities that Brown's car was "playing Harry Potter on the TV screen" when he crashed.
Elon Musk and Tesla called it "a tragic loss" and noted that this is the first known death in more than 130 million miles of Autopilot driving compared to a fatality every 94 million miles in other cars.
Is Tesla really to blame if that's the case? Harry Potter or no Harry Potter, here's the official explanation of why the crash happened from Tesla's blog:
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. Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents.
Tesla also noted that while it will be doing everything it can to improve the safety features of its cars - and offered condolences to the victim's family - drivers using Autopilot still need to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to their surroundings.