Questions after fatal Tesla Autopilot crash

World Today

In this 2015 photo provided by his neighbor, Krista Kitchen, Joshua Brown stands by his new Tesla electric car near his home in Canton, Ohio. Brown died in an accident in Florida on May 7, 2016 in the first fatality from a car using self-driving technology. According to statements by the government and the automaker, his vehicle’s cameras didn’t make a distinction between the white side of a turning tractor-trailer and the brightly lit sky while failing to automatically activate its brakes. (Krista Kitchen via AP)

Questions after fatal Tesla Autopilot crash

There are about 25,000 Teslas with the Autopilot function on the road in the U.S. The fatal crash is raising concerns about the safety - and the future - of self-driving cars. Learn more at CCTV America:

Joshua Brown loved driving his Tesla Model S. He posted 25 videos on YouTube showing off the car’s self-driving feature.

But in May, Brown was killed when his Tesla collided with a truck. The Tesla was in Autopilot mode when it failed to detect the white truck against a bright white sky. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the crash.

According to Mary Cummings, Duke University Director of Robotics, the brakes of the car were never engaged, so the car hit the truck at full speed. This is is an indication that the driver was completely unaware.

The crash is raising concerns about the safety of self-driving cars.

Tesla says it’s the first fatality related to one of its cars being operated in Autopilot, after more than 200 million kilometers driven in that mode. Tesla notes that the car warns drivers to keep their hands on the wheel even when in Autopilot mode.

 Joshua Brown being driven by his autopilot Tesla

This still image taken from YouTube shows Joshua Brown of Canton, Ohio, in the driver’s seat of his Tesla Model S with no hands on the steering wheel while he demonstrates the car’s self-driving mode. (YouTube via AP)

There are about 25,000 Teslas with the Autopilot function on the road in the U.S. In March Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a vision for the future of self-driving cars.

“Within three years the car will be able to take you from point to point: From your driveway to work without you doing anything,” Musk sais. “You could be asleep the whole time, and do so very safely.”

Most major carmakers have self-driving cars in the works. Autonomous driving features are even being tested in fleets of large trucks. 

Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at AutoTrader thinks the industry should move cautiously.

“The fact of the matter is that the technology is not fully there and developed, especially in high traffic situations,” Krebs said. “We do not have regulation in place to govern the technology, and there’re human drivers who make mistakes behind the wheel.”

Experts say one day self-driving cars will be safer than cars driven by humans, but that day is likely still years away.