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You’ll Never Believe Who The First Tesla Autopilot Death Was

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Josh Brown Tesla Crash

Joshua D. Brown, a former US Navy SEAL, just became the world’s first self-driving car fatality. According to reports, Josh was sitting in the driver’s seat of a 2015 Tesla Model S while watching the Harry Potter movie. His car hit the side of a turning-tractor trailer.

Josh’s unfortunate accident actually happened on May 7th in Williston, Florida, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just opened their investigation on Thursday.

Who Is Josh Brown?

Josh Brown was a 40-year-old man and former Navy SEAL who hailed from Canton, OH. After he served as a Navy SEAL (as an explosive ordinance disposal tech) for eleven years, Josh started his own technology firm called Nexu Innovations.

Although he wasn’t married or a father, he’s survived by his sister and his parents. He was also a huge fan of the Tesla Model S and even had his own YouTube page that discussed the features of the car. In fact, if you care about Tesla cars there’s a good chance that you might have seen one of his videos, specifically the clip that shows his Tesla avoiding a merging truck.

In Tesla’s own blog post about the incident, called “A Tragic Loss,” they wrote this about Josh:

The customer who died in this crash had a loving family and we are beyond saddened by their loss. He was a friend to Tesla and the broader EV community, a person who spent his life focused on innovation and the promise of technology and who believed strongly in Tesla’s mission. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.


What Happened?

According to witnesses, Josh was watching Harry Potter in his 2015 Tesla Model S while driving in Williston, Florida. The Associated Press writes that the Tesla Autopilot was unable to detect an 18-wheeler tractor trailer that was making a left turn across the front of Josh’s car.

It’s believed that the Tesla Model S couldn’t determine what was the bright sky vs. what was the white trailer. As such, Autopilot didn’t engage the brake and Josh’s car was completely sheered by the Okemah Express LLC trailer. Josh’s car only stopped once it hit a pole 100-meters from the crash.

The driver of the truck, Frank Baressi, told the AP that “It was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road.”

Tesla wrote this explanation in their blog post titled “A Tragic Loss.”

What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S. Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents.

Those wanting to make a donation in Josh’s honor can find the website at DonorPerfect.net here.

Director of Sales and Marketing
Wyatt is a Gettysburg College graduate and NYC native who is flattered that you're interested about reading up on him.