First fatality for self-driving car

The first American fatality in which a self-driving car was involved, poses the question of how to accept the car’s life-saving technology. The issue becomes even more difficult given the fact that the motorist had a history of speeding.

His name was Joshua D. Brown, age 40, from Canton, Ohio, and he owned a technology company. He died on May 7th in Williston, Fla., when the cameras in his vehicle did not differentiate between the white side of a tractor-trailer that was turning left from a bright sky. Thus, the cameras did not activate the brakes. Mr. Brown also did not assume control of the brakes.

As a result of his death, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is conducting an investigation into the way in which the Tesla Model S vehicle’s “autopilot” system was designed, and how it performs. It was anticipated that NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind would make an announcement in July with regard to regulation concerning self-driving cars. Mr. Rosekind has drawn attention to the possible life-saving benefits of such cars. Theoretically, automated vehicles will remove the human mistakes that caused 94 percent of deaths from automobile accidents.

The advantages could be significant because there were more than 35,000 people who lost their lives in car accidents in the U.S. last year. Nevertheless, experts predict that there will be future collisions and fatalities. A previous NHTSA administrator, Joan Claybrook, stated that the government should make certain that car companies perform tests of self-driving software to eradicate defects prior to the time at which the vehicles are driven.

Still, speed may have played a role in the accident. Friends of Mr. Brown depicted him as possessing a “need for speed,” and according to state records acquired by The Associated Press, he was ticketed for speeding eight times over a period of six years. Moreover, the truck driver, 62-year-old Frank Baressi, of Palm Harbor, Fla., stated that Mr. Brown was driving at a such a fast rate of speed when the accident took place that he didn’t notice him. Mr. Baressi also informed the AP that Mr. Brown was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” when the crash occurred. However, Mr. Baressi conceded that he was unable to see the movie, and only heard it.

In support of his claim, the Florida Highway Patrol revealed that it discovered a portable DVD player in Mr. Brown’s car following the accident. But investigators were unable to verify that it was playing at the time the vehicles collided.

Mr. Baressi has also received citations for seven violations in four traffic stops during the past two years. The most serious offense occurred in January when a state inspector in Virginia ordered him to get off the road because he had been on duty in excess of the legal limit of 14 hours in one day. In addition, he was cited for purposely disregarding a traffic-control device in March and an incorrect lane change in December. Furthermore, last year, an inspection revealed that the tires on the truck were becoming bald.

Driverless vehicles have become somewhat controversial because of the moral dilemma that they present. Such vehicles may be required to make a decision as to which lives to save in an accident.

If you were injured in a Ft. Lauderdale motor vehicle accident due to the negligence of another motorist, or because a vehicle malfunctioned, call the Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys at Chalik & Chalik Law Offices.