A 'Tragic' First: Driver Killed in Self-Driving Car Crash
He was using a semi-autonomous mode in his Tesla at the time
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2016 5:42 PM CDT
Updated Jul 1, 2016 12:45 AM CDT
In this Monday, April 25, 2016, file photo, a man sits behind the steering wheel of a Tesla Model S electric car on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

(Newser) – For the first time, a driver has been killed in a fatal crash while driving a car in autopilot mode. The accident, which happened in Florida in May but has only now become public knowledge, occurred when the driver was using his Tesla Model S in the semi-autonomous Autopilot mode and neither the driver nor the vehicle's sensors saw a tractor-trailer in its path, Jalopnik reports. The Tesla crashed into the tractor-trailer and the driver was killed. The accident was revealed publicly when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Thursday it is opening a preliminary investigation into 25,000 Model S vehicles as a result of the crash, Reuters reports.

The NHTSA says the tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla at an intersection. Per a statement from Tesla calling the death of 45-year-old Joshua Brown a "tragic loss," the incident occurred on a divided highway and the "tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. 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 high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S."