Tesla Releases Statement As Car Accident Is Still Under Investigation

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Tesla Motors released a statement about a fatal crash involving one of its Model S vehicles that occurred on May 7 while it was on autopilot in Williston, Florida – the first known death associated with the system.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is investigating accident.

Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was driving with the autopilot function activated, when a semi-truck driven by Frank Baressi made a turn in front of Brown, at which point the car failed to apply the brakes.

The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death of Brown.

Tesla said the company learned about NHTSA’s investigation Wednesday and released a response the next day on its blog titled,  “A Tragic Loss.”

The company described the crash in the post:

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 bottom of the trailer hit the Model S’s windshield, which led to the accident on US-27A, a road with a 65 mph speed limit, according to Tesla. The Model S had impacted the front or rear of the trailer, its crash safety system would have been more likely to prevent serious injury.

Tesla reported the autopilot function includes digital control of motors, brakes and steering to avoid collision from the front and sides, and to prevent the car from exiting a lane.

Corporal Daphne Yunker is leading FHP’s investigation, which FHP expects could take another month or longer.

Sergeant Kim Montes, from the Orlando division of FHP, said that Tesla has assisted investigators with everything they’ve needed, including sending an engineer to extract information from the Model S itself.

“This is not a criminal case,” Sergeant Montes said. “Just a crash with a fatality.”

Sergeant Montes said there was a portable DVD player found inside the Tesla, but FHP does not know yet if it was in use at the time of the crash.

In its statement Tesla extended condolences to Brown’s family, but said autopilot is merely an assist feature.

“Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert,” the post read.

Tesla also reported the crash was the first known fatality in over 130 million miles driven in Tesla vehicles where autopilot was activated, compared to a national standard of a death in every 94 million miles.

“Nonetheless, when used in conjunction with driver oversight, the data is unequivocal that Autopilot reduces driver workload and results in a statistically significant improvement in safety when compared to purely manual driving,” the statement said.

The Tesla Model S is sold new in Florida beginning at $71,000.

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