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A fatal accident is a first for self-driving technology

The accident occurred earlier this year and has investigators and other special interest groups concerned and talking. It was the first fatal accident in America that resulting during a self-driving car's autopilot operation.

We have previously discussed the self-driving technology and applied it to semi trucks in an effort to promote greater safety around truck driving and a reduction of driver-error accidents. The accident that resulted in a fatality involved the technology in a passenger car. However, the actual accident did involve a truck.

Apparently, a flaw in the system meant the brightly lit sky and the white side of a tractor-trailer were indistinguishable to the cameras and sensors the Tesla passenger car's technology was equipped with, and the brakes were not automatically applied when they should have been. However, the driver did not brake either.

According to the truck driver's story, this may have been because he was watching a movie at the time of the collision. Apparently, the driver had the movie Harry Potter and officers found a portable DVD player within the car. The same truck driver has a record in just the last two years of four traffic stops resulting in seven violations, including driving for more than the allowed maximum time of 14 hours per day.

The family wants the accident to help better shape what is intended to be life-saving technology and it currently isn't clear whether they intend to sue anyone because of the accident. As more information is gathered, the decision may become easier.

If the truck driver was driving negligently and caused the self-driving technology to misread the unexpected situation, there may be cause to seek remuneration from the driver, who also happens to be the owner of the company he drove for.

Whether self-driving technology will be able to one day make our roads safer remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you feel you were injured or if you lost a loved one to a negligent truck driver or even an improperly maintained truck, you may have cause for recourse.

Source:, "Tesla driver's death on 'Autopilot' triggers probe, dilemma," Joan Lowery and John Seewer, July 2, 2016

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