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US federal regulators are investigating Tesla’s autopilot feature after a fatal crash involving a tractor/trailer and one of its Model S autonomous cars. The accident happened in May but has only now been reported.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened the investigation after a man was killed while driving the Tesla Model S with self-driving mode engaged.

“This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where autopilot was activated,” Tesla said. It described the incident a “tragic loss.”

The car was on a divided highway when a tractor/trailer turned in front of it. “Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor/trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied,” Tesla said.

The Model S drove under the larger vehicle, and the underside of the tractor trailer slammed into the Tesla’s windshield.

It’s a major setback for Tesla – and potentially one that’s likely to delay planned introduction of policies to allow more self-driving cars on US roads.
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