Society

Self-Driving Car Involved In Fatal Crash (Photos)

| by Karin Sun
A Tesla Model S self-driving automobile in trafficA Tesla Model S self-driving automobile in traffic

The driver of an electric car was killed in an accident while the car was reportedly in self-driving mode, and it's now been revealed that he was watching Harry Potter during the drive.

Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was traveling in his Tesla Model S electric sedan in Williston, Florida, on May 7 when the crash occurred, The New York Times reported. The car, which was in self-driving mode at the time of the accident, reportedly failed to apply the brakes as a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of it. Additionally, reports say that as the damage from the wreck was surveyed, a Harry Potter film could still be heard playing from the destroyed car.

"It was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road," 62-year-old Frank Baressi, the driver of the tractor-trailer, told Jalopnik. Baressi noted that he couldn't see the movie playing but could hear it after the crash.

The accident, which killed Brown, was the first known fatal incident involving a self-driving vehicle, according to the Times. The Tesla Model S, like other self-driving cars, uses sophisticated computer software, sensors, cameras and radar to navigate the roads without the help of human drivers.

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The National Highway Safety Administration, a federal traffic safety agency, has opened an official investigation into the accident and is currently working with the Florida Highway Patrol to determine the cause of the crash that took Brown's life.

A June 30 press release by Tesla suggested that the crash was caused by the failure of the car's sensors to detect an object in its path.

"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 news release said, according to the Times.

As a result, the car attempted to drive at full speed under the 18-wheel trailer, “with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S," the news release said, according to The Guardian.

According to a police report, the top of Brown's vehicle was torn off in the collision with the trailer, Guardian reported. Baressi, the Tampa-based driver of the tractor-trailer, did not suffer any injuries in the accident.

Brown, who was identified as the crash victim by the Florida Highway Patrol, was reportedly a former U.S. Navy veteran and the owner of a technology consulting firm. He was described in the Tesla news release as a "man who spent his life focused on innovation and the promise of technology and who believed strongly in Tesla's mission," according to the Times.

The man reportedly posted several videos online of himself riding in his Tesla vehicle while the car self-drove in autopilot mode. In one video, he can be seen smiling and saying, "The car's doing it all itself." In another, he praised the car's autopilot system for preventing an accident.

The National Highway Safety Administration plans to release a new set of guidelines regulating the testing of self-driving cars on public roads in July.

Sources: The New York Times, The Guardian, Jalopnik / Photo credit: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via The New York Times​

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