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The first death in America from a car in self-driving mode is presenting federal authorities with a dilemma: How much should the auto industry continue to embrace and develop self-driving vehicles? 

Currently the NHTSA is investigating the design and performance of the Tesla Model S and its autopilot system. The system was engaged when a technology company owner from Canton OH was in the vehicle when he was killed on May 7 in Florida. The camera’s on the care did not distinguish the white side of a turning tractor trailer from the brightly lit sky and id not activate the brakes.


The death comes at a rather awkward time for both car makers and the US government.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind is expected in July to announce new guidelines for self driving vehicles for all US states and manufacturers. The transition to self-driving technology does have potential life-saving advantages, despite the death of the Ohio man.

Rosekind has stated that automated cars and trucks can greatly reduce the human errors that cause 94% of traffic deaths. At least 35,000 people die on US roads each year, so the potential benefits could be substantial.

A former NHTSA administrator, Joan Claybrook, has said that the US government will need to make sure that car companies have completely tested self-driving car software to eliminate any potential defects or hazards.

The family of the deceased has not decided if they will file a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla or any other company.

Our View

We regret the loss of life in this car accident case, and send our condolences to the family. It will be interesting to see how this incident affects how the federal government approaches self-driving vehicles.

It seems to us that the Tesla or its software could be a defective product and there is the possibility of filing a defective product lawsuit in this sad case. Thousands of consumers are injured or killed every year by products that were not properly manufactured or designed.

It seems that a defective product attorney and software experts will need to determine if there was a flaw in the design of the software. If so, the family could have a strong civil lawsuit case that could be worth millions of dollars.



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