While Joshua Brown’s was the first autopilot related fatality confirmed by Tesla, there was an incident in China in January of 2016 that many believe to be the first death that can be attributed to a fault in the Autopilot functionality.
Gao Yaning, 23, crashed into the back of a street sweeper while driving his Tesla on a highway in the northeastern province of Hebei. Video of the accident was captured via an on-board dash cam.
As of the time of the publication of this case study, Tesla is still investigating this incident. However, due to the damage that the vehicle incurred in the accident, there is no way of knowing if AutoPilot was initiated. The car was damaged so badly that it was unable to transmit data logs back to Tesla’s servers.
Yaning’s family is suing Tesla and the dealer that he bought the vehicle through for the equivalent of $1,499 and legals fees.