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A Tesla Driver Died in a Crash While His Car Was on Autopilot

It's the first known fatality involving a driverless vehicle.
Photo via Flickr user Sam Felder

Tesla, the electric car giant and brainchild of Elon Musk, is at the center of the industry's first driverless vehicle fatality, following a crash while in autopilot mode last May, the New York Times reports.

On May 7, Joshua Brown, died after a tractor trailer pulled out in front of him on the highway in Willistan, Florida. Brown's Model S Tesla Sedan—which was in autopilot mode at the time of the crash—failed to hit the brakes.

Federal regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have started investigating the crash to find out how much of the new technology was behind the car's failings. According to the Detroit Free Press, Tesla's autopilot system is billed as a "assist feature" and can be overridden at any time by the driver, who is expected to maintain control of the car in the event of any surprises.

The findings will help create new regulations, which they plan to release in July, for the growing number of driverless cars in the market. Companies like Google and GM have followed Tesla's lead and started investing in driverless technology for cars of their own.

Supporters of autopilot technology believe that driverless cars hold the key to a future of safer roads and fewer fatal car accidents by eliminating human error, even if getting there means the cars will be programmed to weigh the importance of human life in the event of a crash before they hit the pavement.

Read: Self-Driving Cars Will Soon Be Programmed to Decide if They Should Kill You