Airbags were not deployed in the fatal Tesla Autopilot crash, says accident report

The airbag did not deploy in the Tesla car involved in the first known fatality while Autopilot was activated, according to the Florida Highway Patrol accident report obtained by Tech Insider.

Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old Canton, Ohio, resident, was driving his 2015 Tesla Model S in Williston, Florida, when the accident occurred. A truck driven by Frank Baressi, 62, of Tampa, made a left turn in front of the Tesla driving east on US Route 27.

Tesla wrote in a blog post that the Autopilot system did not notice “the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.”

The Tesla’s roof then passed under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer striking the windshield. The Tesla then drove off the road and smashed through two fences before hitting a power pole.

According to the report, the Tesla’s airbag did not deploy at any point during the accident.

Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Kim Montes confirmed to Tech Insider that the airbags did not deploy, but said that there could be any number of reasons why they were not enacted.

The top of the car was sheered off, but the car continued to drive underneath the semitruck, so it’s possible that the missing components affected the airbag system, Montes said. But the agency is still investigating the accident and has not shared an official reason on why the airbags were not deployed, she said.

Airbag malfunctions happen in all vehicles, and we can’t be sure that this is a broader Tesla or Tesla Autopilot problem or if it’s just a one-off incident. But airbags do typically deploy on impact.

It should be noted that the truck’s airbag did not deploy at the time of the accident, either.

A Tesla representative told Tech Insider that the company won’t be sharing any information outside of its blog post on the accident.

“We can’t confirm any details about the customer or specifics of the accident out of the respect for privacy,” the representative said.

Montes also said that they found a DVD player in Brown’s car. The driver of the truck, Baressi, told The Associated Press that Brown was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” at the time of the crash, but Montes could not confirm Baressi’s claims.

“This crash remains under investigation at this time. The department will provide conclusions and more information at the completion of the traffic homicide investigation,” the Florida Highway Patrol representative told Tech Insider.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot in response to the fatal accident. The NHTSA did not respond to Tech Insider’s request for comment on the Tesla airbag not deploying.

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