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There Was Something Different About This Fatal Tesla Crash

The driver wasn't the one killed, and could recount what happened while on Autopilot
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2021 2:50 PM CDT
There Was Something Different About This Fatal Tesla Crash
The company logo is shown at the top of a supercharger for Tesla automobiles near shops Feb. 25, 2021 in Boulder, Colo.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)

(Newser) – "Please tell me no. Please tell me no." So a police video recorded George Brian McGee as saying the night of April 25, 2019. He had slammed into a parked Chevy Tahoe, and a first responder noticed a woman's sandal under the car, spurring McGhee's response. It belonged to Naibel Benavides, whose body was less than 100 feet away. But what is unusual about the crash is that it happened while McGee's Tesla Model S was operating on Autopilot; he was on the phone with American Airlines while driving and dropped his phone. He reached down to get it, missing the fact that the system didn't spot the coming stop sign. He looked up and slammed on his brake less than one second before hitting the pickup, killing Benavides and injuring the man the 22-year-old was on a date on. They had parked on the road's wide shoulder and were standing near the truck when hit.

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In a piece for the New York Times published the same week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would formally probe the Autopilot system, Neal E. Boudette points out one thing that's different about this case: Unlike some other fatal Tesla accidents involving Autopilot, McGee survived and was able to recount to investigators what led up to the crash in Key Largo, Fla. "When I popped up and I looked and saw a black truck—it happened so fast," he said. Boudette goes beyond the accident, though, looking at how Tesla doesn't employ technology that would limit the ability to use Autopilot on local roads (GM, Ford, and others do). "They made a corporate decision to do that, and it’s resulted in preventable tragedies," says the head of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety. "That should be enraging." (Read the full story for much more.)

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