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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a “preliminary evaluation” into an accident involving a 40-year-old man that was killed while his Tesla Model S was in autopilot mode.
This is the first known fatality in more than 130 million miles where autopilot was activated, Tesla said.
According to the Levy Journal, the accident took place on May 7 in Williston, Florida. The victim, identified as Joshua Brown, was reportedly an active member of the Tesla subreddit. Roughly two months ago, a video of his Model S autopilot avoiding a crash went viral and was even tweeted by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
In a statement on its website, Tesla said Brown had a loving family and was a friend of both Tesla and the broader EV community.
According to Tesla, the vehicle was traveling 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. As such, the brakes were never applied.
The car essentially drove “under” the gap of the trailer, making contact with one of its weakest points: the windshield. Had the accident involved the front or the rear of the trailer, Tesla said, its crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury.
Tesla extended its deepest sympathies to Brown's friends and family.