How a Fatal Tesla Crash Could Shape America’s Autonomous Car Laws


By the end of the year, the biggest scoop about self-driving cars won’t be that Uber is testing them in Pittsburgh, that a Singapore company has already put them on the street, or that Google’s steady progress shows no signs of stopping. Nor will it be Apple chief executive Tim Cook’s non-denial denials about the so-called Project Titan. Rather, it will be a story about the fatal crash that killed Joshua Brown.

Brown, an Ohioan, was on a road trip, driving through northern Florida on May 7. A tractor-trailer driver made a left turn in front of Brown’s Tesla Model S, while Autopilot, the car’s driver-assist technology, was engaged. Autopilot didn’t register the trailer as a threat, so the car traveled beneath the trailer before hitting two fences and a power pole. Brown, age 40, was killed.

Brown was something of a Tesla super-fan — the New York Times reports that he nicknamed his car “Tessy” and put 45,000 miles on it in a single year — who was acknowledged by Tesla chief executive Elon Musk when he posted a video of Autopilot successfully avoiding a highway collision just a month before his fatal wreck.

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