Victim of Fatal Tesla Model S Crash Was Frequent User of Autopilot Feature

Joshua Brown, the man who died after a collision in a Tesla Model S with Autopilot activated, was an avid supporter of the system.
The late Joshua D. Brown, Tesla Model S owner 1 photo
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube
While the accident happened on May 7, 2016, the incident was made public on June 30, by Tesla themselves. The NHTSA is investigating the operation of Tesla’s Autopilot system because of the incident, to determine the precise causes of the accident.

According to Tesla’s statements, the vehicle’s camera failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer rig from a brightened sky, and did not automatically activate its brakes.

The vehicle impacted the trailer at windshield level, and then crashed through two fences and a light post. The Model S' owner died at the scene of the accident.

The driver of the Model S praised the Autopilot system and its operation, and he used to post videos of him and his vehicle on YouTube.

One of these videos, filmed two months ago, grabbed the attention of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted a link to the YouTube video. The clip showed the Model S avoiding an impact with a trailer while driving on the highway with the Autopilot mode activated.

Tesla Motors representatives expressed their condolences in a blog post on the company’s website, and called Brown a “friend to Tesla and the broader EV community,” and recognized his efforts in innovation and technology. Brown was a former Navy Seal, and founded a company that focused on wireless Internet and camera systems.

As Associated Press notes, the 62-year-old driver of the tractor-trailer said that the victim of the accident was playing Harry Potter in the vehicle. Contrary to what was initially believed, the driver was not watching a movie from the famous franchise, but listening to an audio book of JK Rowling’s popular series, the Australians at report. Tesla has explained it isn't possible for owners to watch videos on the screen of the Model S.

The American automaker also underlined the fact that Autopilot is a technology that is not activated by default in any of its models, and that each owner that enables the system must agree to keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention to driving at all times.

The hands-on feature was enhanced by an update, which enabled frequent checks for driver’s hands on the wheel and slowed down the vehicle gradually until the driver had at least a hand one the steering wheel.

In the case of the accident, Tesla explained that the crash happened in extremely rare circumstances, which led the Model S to pass under the trailer. If the impact would have occurred at the front or rear of the trailer, Tesla states that the Model S’ safety features would have “likely prevented serious injury.”

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About the author: Sebastian Toma
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Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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