Tesla Model S performed as designed in first autonomous vehicle fatality

Published: September 12, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



Tesla’s Model S’s Autopilot played a significant role in causing the first ever fatal accident in an autonomous vehicle. Design limitations in the system helped cause a collision while the vehicle was under automated control, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday. However, the board says the vehicle performed how it is designed to do.

However, the main cause of the accident was the inattentive driver who had place too much reliance on the autonomous technology, while a truck driver involved in the collision who made a left turn in front of the car was also to blame.

It was widely predicted that all three factors played an important role in the crash. The Safety Board recommended automakers to create safeguard in their systems that will maintain driver attention.

Joshua Brown of Ohio, died when sensors on his Tesla Model S missed the side of a turning truck because the vehicle failed to separate the white truck from the bright sky. The autopilot didn’t stop the Model S and resulted in a collision and Brown’s death.

“In this crash, Tesla’s system worked as designed, but it was designed to perform limited tasks in a limited range of environments,” he said. “Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed.”

The result, Sumwalt said, was a collision “that should never have happened.”

In a statement, Tesla said “we appreciate the NTSB’s analysis of last year’s tragic accident and we will evaluate their recommendations as we continue to evolve our technology.”