The American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a preliminary investigation into the death of a person in control of a self-driving vehicle.

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The investigation was launched after a collision between a Tesla Model S, which was on “auto-pilot” mode at the time, and a truck, in the U.S. state of Florida in May.

The company revealed the news in a blog post stating how an articulated truck drove across the highways, perpendicular to the Tesla and neither the vehicle nor the driver noticed the approaching truck “against a brightly lit sky” and so the brakes were not applied.

The company were keen to stress that this is the first time a fatal incident has occurred in more than 209 million kilometres driven under the autopilot control. However, under normal motoring, a fatality occurs every 151 million kilometres in the United States, and the investigation is to determine whether the autopilot and the vehicle´s systems worked as expected.

“The autopilot is getting better but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to be alert”, a company spokesperson said. When the autopilot is activated “the vehicle reminds the driver to keep their hands on the wheel and be prepared to take the reins at any time”.

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