Joshua Brown died in an accident when the Autopilot feature on his “trusted” Tesla Model S failed him. According to the AP, Joshua has been a huge fan of Tesla’s “sophisticated” self-driving tech while he lived. He posted over 20 videos of his Tesla car (nicknamed “Tessy”) on YouTube praising Tesla’s Autopilot feature. These videos have garnered over a million views.
Ironically, the 40-year-old ardent supporter of Autopilot died when the autonomous driving system failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer rig from a bright sky. Perceived as clear sky, the Tesla then rammed right into a trailer.
According to the tractor-trailer driver, Frank Baressi, Joshua was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen”.
In its official statement, Tesla highlights: “This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles,” hinting that machines are less likely to make mistakes as opposed to us humans. While that may be true, the bigger question is that of accountability. In a car crash that does not involve mechanical failure, drivers are held responsibility. In this case, however, it will be interesting to see who is held responsible. This also raises questions on Google’s autonomous cars that have already been involved in small incidents.