Personal Injury Blog

First Self-Driving Car Fatality in the United States Occurs

By: Allan M. Siegel

Tesla Motors is one of several car companies that is currently testing self-driving cars – although the technology still has not been perfected. Sadly, on May 7, 2016, the first self-driving car fatality occurred during the testing of an autonomous Tesla vehicle, in Williston, Florida. The victim was the operator of the vehicle itself, Joshua Brown. Tesla promptly reported the incident to U.S. regulators, but the collision only recently became public knowledge.

Self-Driving Car Accident

The Tesla vehicle drove right into the middle of a tractor-trailer, which was turning in front of the Tesla vehicle. The Tesla vehicle did not recognize the tractor-trailer as an obstacle; the reason may be that the color of the tractor-trailer was similar to the color of the sky. That said, Tesla does not claim that its self-driving cars are, in fact, completely self-driving; the person in the driver’s seat is supposed to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road at all times. Moreover, there is evidence that Brown, the operator of the Tesla vehicle, may have been unsafely watching a movie on a portable DVD player at the time of the collision.

Self-driving cars hold out the promise of improved convenience and safety on America’s roads, and may lead to a significant reduction in automobile collision injuries and death. Unfortunately, the Tesla crash is a reminder that the technology is not perfect and will require continued human oversight within the “self-driving” car, to prevent avoidable collisions.