Tragically, what is being reported as the first-known Autopilot-associated Tesla death has been reported by the electric car and energy company on its blog.
Tesla reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into its Autopilot technology after what is described as a “fatal crash” in a Model S; the first-ever self-driving, autopilot Tesla death to occur while the feature was engaged in the reported 130 million miles on record. Tesla reports that the death rate that would be expected in the U.S. is one per 94 million miles and worldwide, one per 60 million miles.
“What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. 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 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.”
The Atlantic has reported that annually, self-driving cars, what may be the ultimate goal of Tesla Autopilot, have the potential to save 300,000 lives, just in the United States. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has described what he sees as a “revolution” currently underway, stressing that he expects to see the cars not only perform safely, but “more safely.”
According to polls conducted by New Morning Consult, 43 percent of registered voters in the United States stated that they feel self-driving cars are “not safe,” while 32 percent see the technology as “safe,” as reported by the Inquisitr. Twenty-five percent of those polled were reported to hold no view. Younger respondents were reported to be more accepting of the idea of self-driving technology like Tesla Autopilot than those in older age groups.
Tesla reiterated its policy of delivering vehicles with Autopilot disengaged, such that drivers are forced to submit “explicit” understanding that the the system is in a “beta stage” and is “new technology.” It also stressed the importance that drivers of its vehicles always keep their hands on the steering wheel, and be ready to take control of the car at any time.
A video uploaded to YouTube shows the driver of a Tesla, allowing the car to drive with Autopilot engaged with no problems while on a highway. However, once the car begins driving up on off-ramp, it attempts to make a hard left turn, which might have resulted in the car driving off of the road, before control is quickly regained by the driver. The steering wheel can be seen momentarily turning sharply and briefly swerving.
News of the NHTSA investigation into the Tesla death has caused the company’s shares to fall by 2.5 percent in after-hours trading, as reported by Yahoo Finance. Shortly before the turmoil associated with the recent British EU Referendum, Tesla announced its intentions to buy SolarCity Corporation, headed by Lyndon Rive, cousin of the chairman of both companies, Elon Musk, as reported by the Inquisitr.
Wall Street analysts publish estimates for how much money publicly traded companies like Tesla and SolarCity will earn in the future. Over the past year, the views of these analysts have consistently been reduced. For 2016, 90 days ago, the consensus among the analysts was for a per share loss of $9.13 for SolarCity and a per share profit of $1.31 for Tesla; currently, the consensuses sit at a loss of $10.13 and a profit of $0.66, as reported by Yahoo Finance. It is unclear if news of the Autopilot death will result in further revisions.
Tesla expressed its condolences to the victims of the accident.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]