One of the First Fatalities of a Self-Driving Car: Root Cause Analysis of the 2016 Tesla Model S 70D Crash

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Ergin U.

Trafik ve Ulaşım Araştırmaları Dergisi, vol.5, no.1, pp.83-97, 2022 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 5 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.38002/tuad.1084567
  • Journal Name: Trafik ve Ulaşım Araştırmaları Dergisi
  • Journal Indexes: TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.83-97
  • Police Academy Affiliated: No


The recent technological developments have increased the prevalence of automated vehicles and vehicles with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) within the roadway traffic. Consequently, different safety-critical concerns rise for the usage of self-driving vehicles. The present study has investigated a crash between a semi-trailer of a Freightliner Truck and an SAE Level 2 automated Tesla Car. Operated during the autopilot mode engaged, the 40-year-old Tesla Driver hit and traveled under the mid aspect of the semi-trailer without taking any evasive actions prior to the crash and instantly deceased after the initial impact. The contributory factors of Human Error and Equipment Failure have been analyzed using specific tools of the root cause analysis: Five Whys Technique and Barrier Analysis respectively. The analysis has emphasized the importance of situational awareness while driving automated vehicles and showed that safety barrier features of ADAS may fail and should not be over-relied. The potential reasons to over-rely automated systems were discussed, and recommendations that target the safety of automated vehicle drivers have been made.