Tesla driver killed in autopilot crash, 'was watching Harry Potter', witness claims

Monday, July 4, 2016

 

A man in the US tragically died in a self-driving car because he may have been distracted watching a Harry Potter movie, it has been claimed.

 

Joshua Brown, 40, a former Navy Seal turned technology entrepreneur, had his electric Tesla Model S sedan on autopilot when it ploughed into an 18-wheel tractor-trailer in Florida.

 

The autonomous car failed to recognise the white side of the truck against the bright sky and did not hit the brakes in time.

 

Trailer driver Frank Baressi said he heard a film playing as he approached the wreck.

 

The haulage boss, 62, stated that the car "went so fast I didn't even see him go through" and Brown was "playing Harry Potter on the TV screen."

 

He added: "It was still playing when he died. The car snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road."

 

Once its roof strikes the underside of the trailer, the Telsa continued to drive, striking two fences and a utility pole before eventually coming to a halt.

 

The autonomous car is meant to handle some driving situations, but not all. Tesla advises all drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

 

Brown heavily backed autonomous cars, posting 24 YouTube videos demonstrating the power of the technology since its introduction in 2015. He was part of Tesla's "EV community", a group of electric vehicle enthusiasts.

 

In one of the videos Brown states: "It'll say hold the wheel if it's unsure of its situation and it wants you to be prepared. If you don't take control, the car starts to brake and stuff. I've already done some testing with that, and yes it definitely starts to abruptly slow down."

 

His death is expected to have major implications on the progress of autonomous cars, which are being developed by a huge companies including Google and Uber.

 

Tesla stated that it was the first fatal crash in more than 130 million miles travelled by its self-driving cars.

 

A Tesla spokesman said: "Autopilot is getting better all the time but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert."

 

Tesla said: "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."

 

The California-based company mentioned that films can not be watched on the dashboard screen.

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