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Published: Wed, July 13, 2016
Tech | By Dwayne Harmon

UNM: Tesla driver killed in crash was former student


The Tesla driver killed in the first known fatal crash involving a self-driving vehicle may have been watching a Harry Potter movie at the time of the collision in Florida, according to a truck driver involved in the crash.

Tesla wrote in a blog post that the Autopilot system did not notice "the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied".

In another video, posted by the account DragTimes in October, a driver who filmed himself using Tesla's Autopilot feature reads a speeding ticket as the vehicle continues on, explaining that he had been pulled over because the Autopiloted auto was going 75 miles per hour (120 kph) in a 60 mph (95 kph) zone.

U.S. road safety officials are investigating Tesla's autopilot feature following the fatal crash, which occurred on May 7 and led to the death of Joshua Brown, 40.

Tesla said in a statement Friday, "Autopilot is by far the most advanced driver assistance system on the road, but it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle and does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility". In January, after owners began posting videos to YouTube of themselves testing the limits of the feature, it added certain restrictions to Autopilot's use.

Since the crash the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have been investigating the performance and design of the Tesla's autopilot system.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at road safety charity IAM Roadsmart, said: " This tragic incident appears to be an early example of the problems caused by relying on driverless systems when very few vehicles have them. FHP say Brown's Tesla struck the broadside of Baressi's truck, sheering off the roof of the Tesla.

Tesla said Thursday this is the first known fatal collision that has occurred while a driver was using the self-drive feature, covering 209 million kilometers.

"There was a portable DVD player in the vehicle", Kim Montes, a sergeant of the Florida Highway Patrol, told the news agency.

The bottom of the trailer hit the Model S's windshield, which led to the accident on US-27A, a road with a 65 miles per hour speed limit, according to Tesla.

Was it the driver, Joshua D Brown, 40, whom even friends describe as a speed-loving daredevil with a stack of speeding tickets to prove it?

No citations have been issued, but the initial accident report from the FHP indicates that Baressi "failed to yield right-of-way". Still, experts say some crashes and deaths will continue occurring. Brown's videos in which his Tesla is shown swerving while on Autopilot to avoid a collision with a truck.

Details of the incident only emerged this week as Tesla, which is owned by tech magnate Elon Musk, released its report on the crash.

"For years people have been saying the technology is ready, and it's one of my pet peeves, because no it's not", said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of SC and an expert on autonomous driving issues.

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