Joshua Brown, the 40-year-old Ohio man who was killed in May while his Tesla Model S was in auto-pilot mode, was, like many Tesla owners, a technology enthusiast who enjoyed testing the limits of this nascent innovation. As the New York Times reports, Brown was one of many Tesla owners who had posted YouTube videos of himself testing the feature, like the one above.
Brown was in Florida at the time of the crash, returning from a family trip at Disney World in Orlando, and it was reported that neither he nor the auto-pilot sensors detected the white side of a tractor trailer that was perpendicular to the Model S, across the highway, backlit by a bright white sky.
Brown was a big fan of Tesla, and even gushed on Twitter in April when Elon Musk noticed one of the videos he posted about the car.
As the Times says, though, "Mr. Brown became a victim of an innovation geared precisely to people like him," and he became the first known fatality in a self-driving vehicle.
The Wall Street Journal delves into the lax regulation around the new technology. While Tesla just told owners of their cars to go ahead and download the auto-pilot software last October and begin using it instructing them to always keep their hands on the wheel and stay alert
Auto-safety regulators, meanwhile, were relatively silent on the technology even though many experts viewed Tesla’s program as the most aggressive self-driving system on U.S. roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, embroiled in managing a sharp increase in safety recalls, including tens of millions of rupture-prone air bags, lacks authority to approve or disapprove of the advanced technology or meaningfully slow its deployment.
Instead, car-safety regulators were forced to wait until a major mishap before significantly addressing Tesla’s Autopilot system.
USA Today has a collection of videos shot by people doing things while driving in auto-pilot mode like playing Jenga and taking a nap. For example:
It's now likely that regulators will be more closely investigating self-driving cars and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says they've begun “a preliminary evaluation” of the autopilot feature.
Previously: Man Killed In Self-Driving Tesla Crash