An Ohio man is dead after the Tesla Model S he was riding in crashed into a semi-truck on May 7, Florida Highway Patrol officials confirmed. According to witnesses and authorities, the man may have been watching a movie before the crash.
In a statement posted on its website, Tesla confirmed the man was using the semi-autonomous Autopilot feature when he was behind the wheel. Federal safety officials said they are investigating the incident.
"We learned (June 29) that NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot during a recent fatal crash that occurred in a Model S. This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated," Tesla wrote on its website.
According to the FHP, Joshua Brown, 45, was behind the wheel of the 2015 Tesla Model S on May 7 around 4 p.m. and was traveling eastbound on U.S. 27 Alternate near Northeast 140th Court. Officials say the Model S struck the semi, which was traveling westbound on U.S. 27 and attempting to make a left-hand turn onto Northeast 140th Court, and passed underneath the truck.
Officials wrote in their report that the Model S continued to travel down the road before it eventually left the roadway and struck a wire fence. Investigators said the Model S drove through the fence, struck another wire fence, and eventually crashed into a utility power pole that stopped the car. It wasn't immediately clear from the report or maps of the area how far the Model S may have traveled before it was eventually stopped.
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The Associated Press reported that the driver of the semi, Frank Baressi, said the car came to a halt after traveling more than 1,500 feet and that Brown may have been watching Harry Potter at the time of the crash.
"It was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road," Baressi told the AP.
Florida officials confirmed to the AP that a portable DVD player was found in the car.
Brown was pronounced dead at the scene by authorities.
Only a month before the crash, a video was posted to a YouTube channel reportedly owned by Brown depicting how Autopilot may have avoided a crash.
In its statement, Tesla said its Autopilot software is in "public beta testing" and that drivers must acknowledge that the semi-autonomous software “is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times."
Tesla said that neither the driver nor Autopilot recognized the bright white trailer against the bright sky and failed to apply the brakes.