Federal investigators revealed that a fatal accident involving a Tesla self-driving vehicle and a semi-truck occurred while the Tesla was under computer control. The fatal accident happened in Williston, Florida when the Tesla failed to brake after a semi-truck turned in front of the car.
The crash raises questions about reliance on driving technology. After the accident, Tesla issued a statement that blamed the accident on the self-driving car’s inability to distinguish the white paint on the side of the trailer from the clear daytime sky. The NHTSA has yet to issue a final decision on the accident, but early indications show the agency questions the ability of self-driving cars to make split-second decisions.
The impact of the Tesla case on the assignment of liability, may mean that lawsuits will become more complicated. Victims will seek compensation from the driver for causing the accident, but programmers and manufacturers could soon become defendants as well.
The Tesla accident comes as several major manufacturers, such as General Motors, are set to deploy their own self-driving technologies, while states write laws in anticipation of the latest generation of vehicles. The government’s finding and the result of the expected lawsuit will have ramifications on accident liability cases for years.