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US safety regulators investigate fatal Tesla Autopilot crash

July 5th, 2016  |  Auto

A man was killed in Florida when his 2015 Tesla Model S collided with the trailer of an 18-wheeler. Tesla confirmed the car was in Autopilot mode at the time of the collision.

The Autopilot features have captured a lot of mainstream interest in self-driving cars primarily because of how advanced Tesla’s technology is and the fact that it’s already available for people to try, unlike other manufacturers who are primarily keeping advanced driver assist features on the backburner. However the features haven’t exactly been perfected yet, something most people aren’t exactly used to when it comes to consumer products and that could be a big deal in this case if the victim had not been paying attention to the road thanks to his trust of the Autopilot system.

According to Globe and Mail, the driver’s car could not recognize the tractor trailer as it approached thanks to how similar it appeared to the rest of the bright sunny sky that day.

Tesla has repeatedly stated that the system is not designed to completely replace an attentive driver, and they even make sure they’re legally covered by making sure drivers confirm they understand the beta status of the system. However, some critics are saying that the company shouldn’t make the technology available until it’s safe as possible instead of trusting drivers to make the right decisions.

That approach certainly may have saved this victim’s life, but even if the Autopilot made a mistake, it’s quite possible the driver did too. Even if he trusts Autopilot with his life, it’s a driver’s job to make sure they aren’t being a danger to others. If the investigation determines that the driver wasn’t paying attention, Tesla may avoid a little bit of heat but that won’t mean the company’s off the hook. It continues to struggle with a falling stock price as it faces manufacturing issues and now safety concerns.

If the investigation determines that Autopilot is not a safe feature for consumers the company could be asked to temporarily remove one of its most enticing features.