Safety of self-driving cars questioned after fatal crash

Safety of self-driving cars questioned after fatal crash
The safety of driverless cars in the UK is being questioned after a man was killed in a crash in the US involving a self-driving vehicle.

US road safety officials are investigating motoring company Tesla's autopilot feature following the tragic incident, which occurred on May 7 and led to the death of Joshua Brown, 40.

Mr Brown was killed in Florida after the car he was driving collided with a lorry which had turned in front of him.

Initial findings suggest his car's cameras did not distinguish the white side of the trailer from the bright sky, meaning the brakes were not activated.

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The system changes lanes and speeds up or slows down a car based on what other vehicles are doing.

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In the UK, trials of automated and driverless cars are currently taking place in Bristol, Greenwich, Milton Keynes and Coventry.

In the Queen's Speech in May it was announced that a Modern Transport Bill would include legislation to support the country’s bid to become a world leader in driverless car technology.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at road safety charity IAM Roadsmart, said Tesla’s system arrives in the car through overnight software updates with no training offered, which was “clearly dangerous.”

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He said: "This tragic incident appears to be an early example of the problems caused by relying on driverless systems when very few vehicles have them.

“With new UK legislation designed to encourage autonomous cars expected soon it is vital we have an open debate on the safest way to manage new technology and drivers' ability to use it.”

Commenting after the crash, Tesla said it accepted that the system is “not perfect” and “still requires the driver to remain alert” with both hands on the wheel at all times.

Last month the company released a video of one of its electric cars powering its way through a flooded tunnel.

The footage suggests that the Tesla Model S could be used as a boat in an emergency.

Copyright Press Association 2016. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.