large image

Trusted Reviews is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

First Tesla Autopilot fatality confirmed

We’ve had the first recorded instance of a fatal car crash involving Tesla’s controversial Autopilot function.

The incident actually happened on May 7, but has only just been disclosed by Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors in a blog post.

It seems Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old man from Ohio, put his Tesla Model S into Autopilot mode whilst driving on a highway in Williston, Florida. However, the car’s systems failed to pick out an 18-wheel truck and trailer that was crossing the road, resulting in a full speed collision. It seems the trailer’s white side may have blended in against the bright sky.

According to a local police report, the Model S went under the trailer, and the top of the vehicle was torn off by the force of the collision.

Tesla speculates that “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.”

The company also reiterates that Autopilot is beta software, and is disabled by default. It requires explicit acknowledgement of this from the driver before it can be activated, as well as of Tesla’s requirement that the driver keeps their hands on the wheel and maintains responsibility for the car at all times.

Brown was a Tesla enthusiast who had previously posted footage of his Model S’s Autopilot feature avoiding a collision on YouTube. This video was shared by Elon Musk himself back in April.

As Tesla points out, this is “the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated”. This compares favourably with the record for regular vehicles in the US, where there is a fatality every 94 million miles.

Related: 5 things you need to know about the Tesl Model 3

However, the nature of the accident will doubtless be disturbing to Tesla owners.

The NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into Autopilot’s performance in the accident.

Why trust our journalism?

Founded in 2003, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have millions of users a month from around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

author icon

Editorial independence

Editorial independence means being able to give an unbiased verdict about a product or company, with the avoidance of conflicts of interest. To ensure this is possible, every member of the editorial staff follows a clear code of conduct.

author icon

Professional conduct

We also expect our journalists to follow clear ethical standards in their work. Our staff members must strive for honesty and accuracy in everything they do. We follow the IPSO Editors’ code of practice to underpin these standards.