Tesla worker killed in fiery crash may be first 'Full Self-Driving' fatality

Text: The Washington Post has learned that a Tesla worker may have been killed in a crash involving the company's "Full Self-Driving" driver-assistance system. The incident occurred in 2022, and the advanced driver-assistance system was likely engaged when the vehicle crashed, according to witnesses and police. The driver, Hans von Ohain, was killed in the crash, and his blood alcohol level was over three times the legal limit. The investigation into the incident is still ongoing.

The "Full Self-Driving" system is designed to guide the car almost anywhere, from quiet suburban roads to busy city streets. However, it's worth noting that the system is still in its beta phase and is constantly being modified. While Tesla has acknowledged that the software is in beta mode, the company has also argued that its public release is essential to reducing America's 40,000 annual road deaths.

The incident is currently under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and Tesla has reported the crash to the agency. According to NHTSA, Tesla received notification of the crash through an unspecified "complaint" and alerted federal authorities that a driver-assistance feature had been in use at least 30 seconds before impact.

The incident raises questions about the safety of advanced driver-assistance systems and the responsibility of automakers in ensuring their products are safe. While these systems promise greater convenience and safety, they may also give drivers a false sense of confidence, leading to distracted or intoxicated driving.

The incident is just one of many involving Tesla's driver-assistance systems, including "Autopilot" and "Full Self-Driving." At least 40 crashes have been reported to federal regulators involving Teslas with driver-assistance systems, resulting in serious or fatal injuries.

The "Full Self-Driving" system is not without its issues, as demonstrated by the recent recall of nearly all of Tesla's U.S. cars to address driver inattention. Despite these challenges, Tesla continues to promote its autonomous driving capabilities, with CEO Elon Musk stating that the technology is "the difference between Tesla being worth a lot of money and being worth basically zero."

The incident is a tragic reminder of the challenges of developing and implementing autonomous driving technology safely. While driver-assistance systems can provide valuable assistance to drivers, they should not be relied upon as a substitute for attentive and responsible driving. The investigation into the incident is still ongoing, and it will be interesting to see what further information is discovered.

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