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Tesla's Autopilot 'blinded' momentarily, driver killed

Tesla is being probed for the accident; it said the death was 'a tragic loss' and was the first such incident with its Autopilot system

Washington: Tesla has said a driver was killed while using its "autopilot" self-driving mechanism on its Model S electric car, leading to a federal safety investigation. Tesla said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had opened a "preliminary evaluation" into the performance of Autopilot after it notified the agency of the fatality.

A preliminary evaluation has been ordered into the performance of the Autopilot mechanism in Tesla's electric cars. File pic for representation
A preliminary evaluation has been ordered into the performance of the Autopilot mechanism in Tesla's electric cars. File pic for representation

In a statement on Thursday, Tesla said the fatality was "a tragic loss" and was the first such incident with its Autopilot system activated. Tesla said that in the accident, the car was on a divided highway when a tractor-trailer hit it at an intersection.

"Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied," the statement said. Tesla said that if there had been an impact against the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, "its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in other similar incidents."

The mechanism

Tesla unveiled the system last year, which allows the vehicle to automatically change lanes, manage speed and even hit the brakes. The system is activated and overridden by the driver.

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