On the 14th of June 2016 the Guardian released an article titled “Statistically, self-driving cars are about to kill someone. What happens next? 16 days later, that article came true.
The first known death caused by a self-driving car was disclosed by Tesla Motors on Thursday evening, a development that will likely cause consumers to second-guess their trust in the growing autonomous vehicle industry.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot in the fatal crash that occurred in a Model S. The driver of a Tesla car died after a collision with a lorry in Florida on 7 May. Under scrutiny is Tesla's Autopilot mode, which automatically controls the car and reacts to traffic.
In its statement on the incident, the electric vehicle company reveals it appears the Model S car was unable to recognise "the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky" that had driven in front of the vehicle, and the car failed to apply the brakes. They go on to stress that the technology is in beta phase and it “is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times," and that "you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle" while using it.
Statistically autopilot is still the safest option. It took just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated for the first known fatality. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles and worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. On the news, Tesla's shares dropped by 3%.