IT’S BEEN NEARLY a year and a half since Joshua Brown became the first person to die in a car driving itself. In May 2016, Brown was on a Florida highway in his Tesla Model S using Autopilot, the semi-autonomous driver assist feature that handles steering and speed during highway driving.
Tesla has always warned drivers that Autopilot isn’t perfect. According to car’s driving manual and the disclaimer drivers accept before they can engage it, the system should only have been used on highways with clear lane markings, strict medians, and exit and entrance ramps.
So when a tractor trailer turning left crossed into the Model S’s lane, the system did not recognize it—and the car crashed into its side, killing Brown instantly. Since then, Tesla has updated the Autopilot system that was controlling the car.