An event predicted by many has sadly come to pass. It was reported that in May the driver of a Tesla S with the "Autopilot" automated driving system died in Florida after a collision with a big truck. The government and Tesla are investigating both the design and performance of the Tesla system.
Initial reports indicate the truck turned in front of the Tesla at an uncontrolled intersection and the driver died as a result of injuries sustained. Tesla says on its website that neither the driver or the autopilot system noticed the white side of the truck against the brightly lit Florida sky. The ride height of the trailer combined with the positioning of the truck on the road created an extremely dangerous situation and the windshield on the Tesla collided with the bottom of the trailer.
Tesla says that before activating the autopilot system the driver has to acknowledge that it is an "assist feature" that requires the driver keep both hands on the wheel at all times and that the driver needs to "maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle." The company suggests that the autopilot makes frequent checks to be sure that the drivers hands are on the wheel and if the hands are not detected it is designed to gradually slow the car until a response from the driver. The company concedes that the system is far from perfect and is getting better all the time.
Tesla's founder Elon Musk tweeted "our condolences for the tragic loss." The driver was a former Navy SEAL. NHTSA's Office of Defects is leading the investigation. "Autopilot' also known as "Self Driving" is technology Tesla is investing in heavily while warning the feature is not for all drivers, all conditions and is not sophisticated enough for the driver to ignore what is going on around them. What a company names a feature matters and when something has an "autopilot" feature most would infer that you were on autopilot. Clearly, this was not the case.
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