WASHINGTON, DC — Tesla is calling the first U.S. self-driving car fatality where a Model S drove partially underneath a turning tractor-trailer rare.
The U.S. government says it’s investigating the design and performance of Tesla’s system, which failed to recognize the tall, white trailer against the bright Florida sky. Early reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allege that the Model S driver was traveling down a highway with Autopilot engaged when the truck pulled across the roadway from a perpendicular street to make a turn in the opposite direction.
The May 7 crash is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where autopilot was activated, Tesla said in a June 30 statement.
Tesla said further that, “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.”
Brakes were not applied by the driver or the car’s sensors, Tesla said. The truck driver has not been charged.