Federal officials have opened a preliminary investigation into the autopilot feature on a Tesla Model S electric car — after the feature caused a fatal crash, Tesla announced on Thursday.

Tesla Model S Under Investigation After Self-Driving Car Crash

The crash reportedly occurred in Williston, Fla., on May 7 — killing a male driver, when a big rig made a left turn in front of his Tesla.

His death was thought to be the first in the auto industry related to an autopilot feature – bringing up questions about the safety of self-driving vehicles.

In a blog post, Tesla Motors Inc. said the 2015 car passed under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer hitting the Model S’ windshield.


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“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 explained.

The automaker claimed that its autopilot feature is still in a beta phase of introduction and has limitations.

“Autopilot is getting better all the time but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert,” the company added in the post.

Analysts argued that the Tesla fatality would make motorists more aware of the autopilot faults — rather than a major hit against Tesla’s brand reputation.

“We do not yet have fully autonomous cars,” said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “It might be this tragic event starts a kind of movement of educating consumers.”

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